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The Absolute Value of -1

3.36  ·  Rating details ·  229 ratings  ·  67 reviews
“Brezenoff’s enviable prose captures distinct, compelling characters as they struggle through the often heartbreaking work of becoming adults. Readers will identify with Lily, Noah, and Simon as they try to reconcile their longing for connection with their need to break free.”

—Sara Zarr, National Book Award Nominee and author of Once Was Lost.

The absolute value of any
Hardcover, 264 pages
Published September 1st 2010 by Carolrhoda
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Average rating 3.36  · 
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 ·  229 ratings  ·  67 reviews

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Jun 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2011, ya
Sometimes I read so many mediocre young adult books in a row that I just start to despair of the whole section. I start to question why I spend so much time over in YA…I mean…these books are obviously not written for me. I find so many of them to be far too casual, superficial, and unrealistic…not to mention poorly written. Every once in a while though, I come across a book like this, that’s so well written and honest and devastating, that I know why I keep crossing the aisle.

Lily, Noah, and
Aug 16, 2010 rated it liked it
We all know that no two people are the same. Everyone deals with different situations, everyone has an image they want to project to others, and everyone deals with problems (be they big or small) at some point in their lives. Steve Brezenoff introduces us to Noah, Lily and Simon and gives us a taste of his take on relationships and what brings us together and the distance that is inevitably between us.

I've really become a fan of author's giving us multiple narrators and points of views. This
The Absolute Value of -1 pulls no punches.

The structure of the book is what initially appealed to me: three sections, each narrated by one of a trio of friends, primarily describing a series of events that defined their sophomore year of high school. (There are also two short passages by a fourth character that bookend the three main sections.) One of the most important lessons I learned in high school was that my truth wasn't necessarily the same truth experienced by even my closest friends,
Lily, Noah, and Simon are a dysfunctional group of friends. It's made even more awkward in that Lily likes Simon but Noah likes Lily. They have a very casual attitude towards smoking, school, and life in general.

Told from multiple view points throughout the story, it is difficult to figure out what's going on and who the characters are, especially at the beginning. While the characters do stand as individuals, none of them are very intersting.
Aug 21, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was really enjoying this book, despite the frequent math references. It was told from the separate viewpoints of three teens who form a tight group and the dynamics within them. However, two of the characters are just abandoned with no resolution of their many issues and impending changes. Totally unsatisfying!
Vahini Naidoo
Oct 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
Steve Brezenoff’s the Absolute Value of |-1| is an unapologetic look at the lives of three teenagers as they grow up. The voices are distinctive, the characters fully rounded and the story at times insightful, at others heartbreaking and funny.

I finished this book in one night. The prose is so clean, and carries just the right amount of emotional resonance.

But. I wouldn’t say I’m in LOVE with this book. I’m just kind of severely crushing on it (if my romance comparison here doesn’t help you to
Jul 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Human nature insists we assign intention to the events in our lives. We assume we know why someone else does the things they do. And we make judgements about them because of the images we shape. But no matter how hard we try, or how much we believe, we can never really know someone else’s story. In The Absolute Value of -1, Brezenoff demonstrates how our minimalist perceptions can not only narrow our views, but can detrimentally impact others’ lives and relationships. How we influence and change ...more
Dec 04, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: own
The Absolute Value of -1 is a dark and dreary book of hope, despair, love, loss, and wanting something so much it hurts. It's also funny at times and written in prose that leaves you breathless for more, as well as questioning what on earth is going to happen next. In other words, it's a pretty great book!

The Absolute Value of -1 tells the story of three teens who've been friends since middle school, but now with high school in the process it seems like their friendship is slipping right out of
Sep 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
High school: Noah loves Lily, Lily loves Simon, Simon loves pot; Noah deals pot. I was lucky enough to never be a vertex in a warped little quadrilateral precisely like this, but the geometry of misery feels plenty familiar and accurate anyway. Brezenoff lays it out in first-person narration from the three principles, with book-ending asides in a sibling’s voice.
I have four teeny quibbles with this book. It bounces around in time quite a bit, and I was sometimes a little confused between “now,”
Sara Grochowski
Jul 31, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed, own
Having never heard of THE ABSOLUTE VALUE OF -1, I had no expectations as I cracked the cover. Not one. Which is why I was shocked to discover that this novel, Steve Brezenoff's YA debut, has landed squarely on my Best of 2010 list.

The novel is divided into three main sections - one for each character - but the first and last pages are told by Suzanne. I'll admit to being a bit confused when I saw her name printed largely on the first page... there's no mention of a Suzanne in the description.
Kelli Conlon
The absolute Value of -1 is a great story that tells the average days in the life of three teenager friends and their love circle. Lily is in love with Simon even though he doesn't give her the time of day. She'll ditch anyone and revolve her whole day to find him, walk by him or look good for him. At the same time Noah is head over heels for lily and she doesn't even see it. Noah try's to be with lily and be the guy she wants but she only has eyes for Simon. Simon how ever is branching away ...more
Laura de Leon
Sep 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
(3.5 stars, rounding up because it picked up at the end)

This book got off to a slow start for me. I found Lily interesting in a fairly abstract way, but I never found her or her story compelling.

It really picked up for me when the book switched viewpoints, and I started to see Noah's perspective on some of the same events. If anything, Noah is a less interesting character, but the shift really pulled me in.

Then we got to Simon's section. I hadn't been interested in him either, but once I saw his
This was heartbreaking.... and weird. At times I felt like I was playing a guessing game. This story us told from mainly 3 different perspectives, lily, Noah and Simon ( and very briefly Simons sister Suzanne). There is a lot of rehashing the same events, but its somehow not boring. Each character is very different and complex, with some of the same issues going on, but at the same time, their very own stories and misgivings to tell.

3 stars.

A little game of word association:
Aug 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
I can see this being a nominee for either the Morris or the NBA. A lot of swearing, but the themes and realistic portrayal of a subgroup of teens is spot on.
Full review here:
Sep 14, 2011 rated it it was ok
the author is very stereotypical of teenagers.
apparently all they do is sexual things, think about breasts, smoke, drink alcohol, and get high.

also, was there a plot to this book?
if so, please explain it to me.
The Short Version:
A multiple voice narrative, each distinct in it's own way, and a hugely realistic portrayal of events make The Absolute Value of -1 a painful but enlightening read. The interactions between these three friends aren't as great as they seem, and the slow realization for the trio comes as a new shock, each time. Mixing in love and lust, drugs, and a need for both connection and solidarity, Brezenoff has pitched a beautiful look that will resonate with plenty. The writing shifts
Dec 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Don't let those blurbs fool you. The only one that's the most relevant is Lily's. The others all look like they're wrapped up in some weird love triangle of angst but it's so much more than that. Except for Lily. That's really all it is about since she had such tunnel vision for Simon.

Again, Carolrhoda Lab has not let me down with one of their books. Brezenoff's writing digs so deep, gets down underneath the emo and the angst and the teenagery to something so much more powerful. Lily and Noah
Dec 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya, dark, not-graphic, life, voice
It's been said "nobody loves no one."* No one wants to be alone and it's easy to fixate on someone to want. The hard part is loving someone who loves you back with circumstances and timing that allow it to work. That's not the story of this book. No, this offers three-and-a-half studies of characters who yearn for those they can't have. Each tells his or her version of the story in turn, relating the events from an individual perspective and in a distinct voice. They're real and believable and, ...more
Jun 20, 2011 rated it liked it
I absolutely loved Steve Brezenoff's Brooklyn, Burning (review), so I was really excited to read his debut. While the writing is just as great in The Absolute Value of -1, I didn't like it quite as much as Brooklyn, Burning, just because I couldn't really connect to two of the main characters.

The book starts out with a chapter from Suzanne's point of view. That part really confused me, but I figured that was the point and just kept reading. Then there's a longer part from Lily's point of view,
May 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Books that deal with younger characters have always had a draw for me. Especially when they deal with the subjects that most parents don't seem to want to broach with their children. It always seemed to me that kids will find the information that they are looking for one way or another, so wouldn't you rather it be accurate? At least if a book properly and effectively deals with a touchy subject, a younger person can get the information that they are seeking. Books like this have power.

Carmen Yeung
Jan 22, 2012 rated it liked it
This book is about this three teenagers that use to be bestfriends. When they got into highschool, everything changed. This friendship consist of Noah, Simon and Lily. They started off the book with Lily's point of view, she faced a lot of challenges in life. She had this major crush on this guy that was her friend for so long, Simon. Even though she liked him, she was revolved with even bigger problems in life - her parent's divorce problem. Everything surrounding was just so tiring and very ...more
Alisha Marie
Aug 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
The Absolute Value of -1 was angst galore. But that's okay, because I embrace Angst like the old frenemy he is. So, no problems on that front at all. The Absolute Value of -1 takes everything that made you ache and hurt in high school and puts it right up there for everyone to see and feel all over again. It makes you realize that the hurt and heartache you were pretty much a staple in high school life. Yep, high school. It's almost always angsty and very rarely all pretty.

Jun 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
The Absolute Value of -1 is, well, a bit different. And I must say, I like different. The story follows Noah, Lily, and Simon and is mostly told from their three perspectives. Noah loves Lily who only has eyes for Simon who really doesn't give a crap. As they enter high school, it's as if time is moving too fast, too many things are happening simultaneously, and the once tight trio is being pulled apart at the seams. I felt like this is the same story of so many of our own lives, the ...more
Jun 07, 2012 rated it liked it
The Absolute Value of -1 by Steve Brezenoff

How I heard about the book: I was wandering my library one day looking for a book. This one kind of just intrigued me.

Summary: (from Goodreads) Noah, Lily, and Simon have been a trio forever. But as they enter high school, their relationships shift and their world starts to fall apart. Privately, each is dealing with a family crisis—divorce, abuse, and a parent’s illness. Yet as they try to escape the pain and reach out for the connections they once
Sep 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Why I read this: It sounded interesting, simple as that.

How is the novel driven: It's all about the characters - this is the story of Noah, Lily and Simon who are friends in some ways and yet not friends in others and it's told from each of their points of view, so it's all character.

My thoughts: I couldn't write my review of this one right after I finished it. I admit I don't write most of my reviews right after I finish the book, but with this one I needed to think about the book for awhile.
May 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
The Absolute Value of -1 is a book about three teenager's, Noah, Lilly and Simon,relationships, and how they change as they grow older along with their perception of the world and the way it works.This is a book about their lives.

I know that you are all probably thinking that you've read books with a similar, if not the same, theme before.But I would suggest that you don't think about all the other books you've read on the subject and read this one with an open mind.

I liked The Absolute Value of
Apr 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviews, young-adult
I can honestly say I don’t remember ever reading a book quite like THE ABSOLUTE VALUE OF -1. Told in four points of view, the book follows three friends, Lily, Simon and Noah, through a few months of their grade ten school year. The story is raw, honest and unapologetic. Lily, Simon and Noah exist in (what we called in high school) the “druggie” clique. All three smoke (cigarettes and weed), skip school and drink, are all quite smart and in Lily’s and Simon’s cases were/are on team sports. It’s ...more
Jul 31, 2010 rated it really liked it
The Absolute Value of -1 was an original and unique young adult debut novel that was very different than anything I’ve read before.

For starters, it was told in four different perspectives: Suzanne, Noah, Lily, and Simon. I enjoyed getting to know each of these characters and to learn about their opinions on each other and their different experiences. Simon had the biggest section and, by the end, I felt I knew his character the most. He had been through a tough time and his life was by no means
Eliana Lima
Oct 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: young-adult

This book was weeeeeird. I don't understand what the point of it was? It has three perspectives but when it gets to the third it kind of just goes "screw those first two perspectives, this 3rd dude is the REAL main character!" and the first two characters basically are cut out of the story. I'm also not sure what the overall message I'm supposed to take from this is. It was vaguely anti-smoking/drinking, vaguely Catcher in the Rye wannabe, and WEIRDEST OF ALL it had incest. Like,
Aug 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
The Absolute Value of -1 by Steve Brezenoff
Lerner, 2010
289 pages
YA; Contemporary
4/5 stars

Source: Netgalley

Summary: Told from multiple perspectives, looking at the entwined lives of four young people as they try to live their lives.

Thoughts: It opens with someone named Suzanne in a way that confused me. Then it jumps to the first part with Lily sharing about her awful family and telling her story about her love for Simon; I really identified with her feelings about the boy even though her copious
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Steve Brezenoff is the author of the young adult novels The Absolute Value of -1 and Brooklyn, Burning, and his third, Guy In Real Life, will be released in 2014. He has also written dozens of chapter books for younger readers. Though Steve grew up in a suburb on Long Island, he now lives with his wife and their son in Minneapolis, Minnesota.