Tess da Costa is a saint — a hand-to-god, miracle-producing saint. At least that's what the people in her hometown of New Avon, Massachusetts, seem to believe. And when Tess suddenly and tragically passes away, her small city begins feverishly petitioning the Pope to make Tess's sainthood official. Tess's mother is ecstatic over the fervor, while her sister Callie, the one who knew Tess best, is disgusted - overcome with the feeling that her sister is being stolen from her all over again.
The fervor for Tess's sainthood only grows when Ana Langone, a local girl who's been missing for six months, is found alive at the foot of one of Tess's shrines. It's the final straw for Callie.
With the help of Tess's secret boyfriend Danny, Callie's determined to prove that Tess was something far more important than a saint; she was her sister, her best friend and a girl in love with a boy. But Callie's investigation uncovers much more than she bargained for: a hidden diary, old family secrets, and even the disturbing truth behind Ana's kidnapping.
When Katie Bayerl isn’t penning stories, she's coaching teens to tell theirs. A PSALM FOR LOST GIRLS is Katie's debut young adult novel. Katie is a proud graduate of the Vermont College of Fine Arts Writing for Children and Young Adults program and teaches in Grub Street's creative writing program. She has an incurable obsession with saints, bittersweet ballads, and murder. It’s becoming a problem.
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I'm really cautious when anyone says "the writing's like Jandy Nelson's," because what could ever live up to that? Um, this book. Absolutely this book.
A Psalm for Lost Girls is at once literary and supremely accessible. This novel is so many things: the story of a desperate small town, of sisters, of love, fear, the possibility of miracles. The premise gripped me immediately (my grabby hands have been all over this book since its announcement), but it was the complex plot and gorgeous language that kept me going to the very end.
A truly brilliant mystery that I would highly, highly recommend.
2.5 stars. This is perhaps one of the most disappointing books I read in 2017. Psalm For Lost Girls starts out as a decent suspense novel with an especially nice writing style, but it falls apart quickly in the second half.
Psalm For Lost Girls has a fantastic premise. Protagonist Katie tries to cope with the recent death of her sister, who is praised as a saint throughout her town. It's a book all about how belief can turn to idolization quickly.
The first half of this book is, admittedly, high quality. The writing is gorgeous. The main character sometimes talks to her sister using the second person, and it works very well as a rhetorical device.
The problem comes in the second half. While I was intrigued by the plot in the first half, the second half loses dramatic tension far too quickly. While Psalm For Last Girls begins with intrigue and interest, it soon becomes boring. The kidnapper was essentially revealed halfway through the book, and at that point, there immediately wasn't much left to look forward to.
My impression was that the author attempted to focus on character development in the second half. Unfortunately, Katie's character arc focused more on romance than on her own personal change. I was also not a fan of romance; it's a bit instalovey, and I've never cared for dead sister's boyfriend x live sister romances.
While this ended up with a disappointing second half, I loved the writing (so good), and I will definitely look for whatever else Katie Bayerl writes next.
Katie Bayerl's debut, A PSALM FOR LOST GIRLS, is incredibly lovely--a psalm to friendship and sisterhood and loss and the inexplicable things that make up our faith. I've always loved George Eliot's Middlemarch, and I'm fascinated by her premise: how a woman with the ardency and spiritual fire of St. Theresa might fare in the 19th century. Here, Bayerl offers a 21st century response to that same question. What does a saint look like in a secular world?
Tess da Costa was seen as a saint by her city, but after a young girl disappears and Tess dies, her sister Callie is left to make sense of the pieces. When the girl reappears at a shrine to Tess, a local campaign to make Tess a legitimate saint receives added vigor. Callie is disgusted by the campaign and determined to reveal the truth of her sister--that she was a real, flesh-and-blood person with faults and flaws, as well as gifts. But her pursuit turns up more questions than answers--both about her sister and about Ana's kidnapper.
I thought the whole thing was lovely--the complicated and loving sister relationship, the grief, Callie's growing friendship with Tess's boyfriend. Even the mystery is handled deftly and with nuance. I look forward to seeing what else Bayerl writes!
I got to blurb this book, and here's what I wrote:
A mystery, a thriller, and a prayer, gripping and anguished, told in the poignant weaving of voices from beyond and voices left behind. – Julie Berry, Printz Honor author of The Passion of Dolssa
This debut novel is fantastic, doing all things well: setting (you can slice it), sexual tension (you won't want to slice it), vividly distinct characters, psychological tension (superbly thrillery), the whodunit (smart & tight), and most of all, heart. There were tears. A memorable and gripping read.
I have to admit that this book is aspirational for me. As someone who is currently writing a YA mystery/thriller, I know how difficult it is balance the building of suspense and construction of plot with character development and emotional depth, and this book has it all. The prose is taut and tight and often beautiful. The examination of grief and its transformative effects is thorough and real, and the story itself is gripping and compelling and unique. I loved the different POVs that allowed for different angles on the story, and thought the relationship between Callie and Tess served to tie everything together, to make it relatable and true. This is a book you are going to want to pick up in 2017.
This book is thick with gorgeous writing, nuanced characters, and heart-stopping tension. Katie Bayerl writes with precision. The story unfolds gracefully. I wanted to read this slowly to soak up the beautiful language in some moments. Delicious!
I loved the premise of this book, so I was pretty eager for it.
I liked Callie well enough. She's abrasive and maybe a bit mean and it all makes sense as to why. Danny was sweet and maybe a bit naive. I really enjoyed seeing their interactions together. The best part of the story was getting the journal entries from Tess and how she saw everything that was happening.
The plot was interesting and boring at the same time. Things moved quite slowly, but I was fully invested in seeing how it played out. I wanted more tension and expected more of the mystery part, but ultimately, the story was more about Callie and Danny finding closure for themselves.
**Huge thanks to Putnam Books and Edelweiss for providing the arc free of charge**
WOW this book blew me away on so many levels! The narrative is tight, the characters are real--I'm not someone who binges on books, but I couldn't put this down! "A Psalm for Lost Girls" combines so many things you wouldn't expect to see lined up together: modern day sainthood, mental illness, girl abductions--it's wonderfully bizarre, thought-provoking, dark, and hopeful all at the same time. It paints the complexity of being human: that even saints desire more than holiness, that love can be jealous, that all of us crave something extraordinary to heal our hurt. With every page I read, I was like, wow--I wish I'd written this!
This layered mystery expertly weaves together so many elements: family history and resentments, sisterly love and jealousy, community values and social mores, faith and an unsolved crime. At the heart of the story are sisters Tess and Callie da Costa, teen daughters of a single mom with deep roots in the New Avon community. At the risks of revealing spoilers, I'll avoid explaining too much plot other than to say that Tess is already dead when the book begins, but her diaries tell her side of the story develops after she begins to perform what many in the community believe to be miracles. Mystery, grief, family secrets, tragedy and hope will make you keep turning the pages of this beautifully crafted debut.
SO GOOD!!! I loved this book so much. Callie is such an amazing character--you can tell she's so troubled by the loss of her beloved sister and you go through every feeling with her. She's very believable and relatable. Danny, though less developed purely by dint of him not having a voice except through Callie's view of him, was a lovable character who I absolutely rooted for every step of the way. And making Tess, a dead possible saint believable through her journal entries was just brilliant. This part love story, part mystery, part coming of age novel was brilliant and well-timed!
Yet another book reinforcing the stigma against mentally ill people as dangerous and monstrous. Stop writing mentally ill people as villains who kidnap children. Stop making them out to be monsters. Just stop. It's extremely harmful and ableist.
From the very first pages, this book gripped me! I had in our living room and my guy picked it up and said, "that title is really interesting." I told him, "it frames the whole story in such a powerful way." I thought it was cool how even my husband, who doesn't read any YA, was intrigued. As far as the novel goes, I loved how it examined faith, relationships, and love in all their many broken and beautiful expressions. I would highly recommend this novel--it delivers on its title!
A town desperate for hope, a girl plagued by visions and voices, and the people caught in between - Bayerl's literary YA debut masterfully weaves the competing desires, loves, fears, and needs of all. I was so taken by this book - from the characters your heart aches for, tough questions about what it means to love and lose and remember, to the skillful layering of plot, to the author's obvious way with words, it was hard to put down. Teens and adults alike are going to be falling for this one. There is enough depth and complexity, on top of the drive to solve a compelling mystery, to keep everyone spellbound. Highly recommended!
Tess is only a 17 year old girl when she dies of a heart attack.And she is already being considered by the vatican for sainthood.Tess is different from most people where she can hear voices which warns her of something that might happen and so on so forth. However over the years,the gift she has takes a toll on her.The advice she gave to her own sister,she ignores.SHe turns away and alienates both her sister and secret boyfriend.The disappearance and reapparance of Ana has Callie and Danny digging deeper to make sure tess is not seen as a saint.to stop it from happening.what do they find exactly?
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
A beautifully written, gripping story about sisterhood, sainthood, and grief, tethered to a mystery that's equally entrancing. The fictional New Avon felt so true to life to this reader who grew up near the border of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Highly recommended for fans of mysteries, lyrical writing, and contemporary YA with a hint of magical realism.
"A saint has to be good, right? Virtuous. She has to follow the teachings of the Church. If it came to it, all we'd have to do is show them that Tess was never perfect, never close."
This book's been on my TBR for about 4 years now, and today I must unfortunately say that... is that it? I did like the writing, finding it poignant and even some insightful scenes, but other than that it's just mediocre. To me the mystery fell flat and somehow I felt that nothing happened for like 300 pages, which is just a shame because the synopsis is so interesting.
It's as such: Callie's elder sister Tess suddenly dies of a heart attack brought on by the stress the people of their town's incessant praying to her for the answers on the whereabouts of a missing child, only to have Tess being unable to decipher the clues that come to her as mysterious prophet voices. But then the child, Ana, turns up after Tess' death at one of her shrines, alive but severely traumatised and mute. The townspeople see this as Tess' miracle and petition to have her canonised as Saint Teresa of New Avon, to Callie's chagrin. Callie then embarks on her own crusade to stop this at all costs, accompanied only by Tess' boyfriend Danny.
I thought the story started out well- we're introduced to Callie and Danny, see Callie's rage at everyone worshipping a false and idealised image of the sister she loved, and finally her regret at not being kinder to Tess before her demise. We see Callie's strained relationship with her mother, her wayward kind of life as she ditches everything to preserve Tess' memory, and furthering it by trying to solve the mystery of Ana's kidnap. But after the set-up and past the first half of the book, I just couldn't get into the story after that and found that I was purely reading this so I could get it over with. The ending was very anti-climatic; at times I found Tess an even more interesting character than Callie, and though I did like how we're left with the question of , I just found the whole bulk of nearly the entire second half so whimperingly bland.
Yeah, there is a high point where , but other than that nothing truly stood out to me from there onwards. And though the simple statement in the end is love works wondrously well for this book, I must admit that this was way longer than it needed to be. Maybe I'm just overly critical since I've waited some four years to read this after all, and had probably some unrealistic expectations for the story. At some points I even felt that this would've been miles better as a novella.
To sum up, I am of course no Patron Saint of Book Reviews, but what I really can say is that I still think this is worth the read if you really want to go for it. The writing style is no masterpiece, but it seeks to tell at heart a love story about faith and grief, and for all accounts does it fairly well. In the end a story of undying sisterly love can be found beneath all its flaws.
Omg. For me, this book was amazing. I'm Catholic - so I get the whole saint thing. I've lost many people in my life - I get the whole overwhelming grief thing. I had a mother who was like the mother in this book - totally captivated by one child. I got every single subtle nuance in this book.
This is not a book that you can stick a genre on, but that's a plus in my view. Callie is dealing with the recent death of her older sister Tess, complicated by that fact that a couple of years before her death Tess had been hearing voices that her mom and the religious community viewed as miracles from God. Now Tess is up for sainthood, and Callie is trying to prevent that from happening. She's angry that her sister can't just be left in peace, angry that Tess endured so much grief and anger directed at her because their neighbor's granddaughter was kidnapped and Tess failed to work a miracle. 4 months after Tess's death, the little girl escapes from her kidnapper, and Callie finds herself working with Tess's secret boyfriend, Danny, to uncover that mystery and to stop the Church's endeavors to canonize Tess. Despite all this, the book isn't religious, and it's left to the reader to draw their own conclusions- were Tess's gifts schizophrenia, from God, or, and this is not something really talked about much in the book, but just a psychic gift? I really enjoyed the mystery aspect and how well the author handled grief. It's also refreshing to read a YA book not afraid to tackle religion, and it treats both sides with respect.
This is the best, if not one of the best books I have read. I really got connected to all the characters and I even cried. I seriously recommend this book. You're missing out if you don't give it a try. The story is phenomenal. I can't put into words how much I enjoyed this that someone else would understand. The best way to explain it is for you to read the book and feel it yourself.
I'm so serious, READ IT!!!!! (I need to calm down)
The Good - The original mystery/ kidnapping was intriguing although it wasn't wholly original if you've seen a lot of crime TV dramas like I have - It appeared to take place in a lower income neighborhood with primarily Latinx people, but nothing was ever explicitly stated -The mash-up between first person narrative and past journal entries helped flesh out the characters, relationship between Callie and Tess, and how everything tied together -The sibling relationship was realistic and didn't push their arguments or feelings for one another
The Not So Good -While the initial mystery was intriguing, it had little to no pay off at the end of story and it was pretty anti-climactic as well. Also, the who behind the kidnapping wasn't anything novel or exciting if you've seen/read a lot of crime dramas -Callie was an incredibly abrasive and often mean character who didn't think of others or their feelings, particularly Danny -Speaking of Danny, his and Callie's pseudo-kinda romance was cringy, especially considering his serious relationship with Tess -The portrayal of the religious community was accurate, but it still stung a bit as a more religious person when Callie was constantly criticizing absolutely aspect of the church -The plot also lagged in certain parts, especially in the middle when Callie wasn't working on solving the mystery
Would I Recommend This Book? Not at all. It was a quick read with an interesting mystery. What originally drew me into the plot, the mystery and religion element, didn't end up delivering considering the second was more of a criticism than an element of the story. There are plenty more crime/mystery/thriller books I'd recommend before this one.
Favorite Quote: Even in the worst moments, when nothing makes sense and doubt and worry make everything bleak, there is still love in my life.
This was absolutely not for me. It has an interesting premise: Tess is widely believed to be a saint by her neighborhood, but they begin to lose faith in her when a young girl goes missing and Tess can't locate her. Then Tess dies unexpectedly, leaving her younger sister, Cal, reeling. The missing girl is then found at a shrine to Tess, sparking a fervor to have the posthumous event declared a miracle and Tess an official saint. Cal doesn't want this to happen, so she teams up with Tess's secret boyfriend to a.) prevent Tess from being sainted and b.) find out who kidnapped the girl. The amateur writing, unbelievable plotting and terrible pacing destroyed what could have been a fresh, inventive idea. I didn't feel for Cal at all, and I found her constant exposition maddeningly juvenile and boring. The story moves so slowly at first, building up to a ridiculous climax that just happens so quickly and then it's over, with everything wrapped up perfectly. I ended up skimming the last 100 pages because I had gone too far to give it up, and I did hope that the mystery might present an unexpected twist, but I was disappointed. Although it wasn't the book for me, I think this novel will probably satisfy some readers, particularly those who enjoy first-person narration and tidy endings.
“No one ever talks about this side of sainthood, do they? They ask what the saints can do for them, but no one ever asks a girl if she wants to be their savior. They definitely don’t ask her sister.”
This was a unique story about sainthood, miracles, and small-town life, with a light mystery aspect.
Callie’s sister Tess is believed to be a saint and the fervor only increases after her untimely death. Callie is an atheist and hates the sainthood stuff, which she feels took her sister from her. So Callie tries to figure out what really happened in a local kidnapping case in order to stop people from believing the outcome was a “miracle”. Again ... unique.
Callie had an engaging voice as the MC and the writing was good. A Psalm for Lost Girls has important messages about family and grief. I liked that it was in no way preachy, or even really about religion, but more about sisterhood and sense of self. The mystery aspect was really a background part of the story, meant to propel it forward, so I wouldn't read it for that aspect, and I do wish the friendships had been more developed, but overall it was an interesting read.
I’d recommend it for those who are looking for a different kind of YA story.
I tried to like this book but I just couldn't get into it. It took me 7 days to finish it, first time this ever happens. It's not a bad book, I just couldn't get into it that's all. Everything was done well. The writing, the characters, plot, everything but it wasn't the book for me. Love the ending though and the dog.