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Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands
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Archive: Other Books > Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands / Chris Bohjalian - 3.5***

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Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 6289 comments Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands – Chris Bohjalian
Book on CD narrated by Grace Blewer.

Emily Shepard is a troubled teen. Totally understandable, given that she’s been orphaned by a nuclear plant disaster where both her parents worked, she’s homeless, and she’s one of the most reviled people in Vermont, if not all of America. This is her story.

The novel is told as a series of journal entries, or writings encouraged by a therapist to help the writer (Emily) understand how she came to this point in her life. Opening line: I built an igloo against the cold out of black plastic trash bags filled with wet leaves.. This gave me the sense that this was going to be a post-apocalyptic novel. But it isn’t post-apocalyptic, or not for everyone; the world doesn’t change for everyone, though it definitely changes for Emily. The disastrous melt-down at the nuclear plant where both her parents worked has resulted in thousands of people being displaced and serious questions asked about how this could have happened. One name keeps coming up – Emily’s father, who was known to have a drinking problem and is rumored to have been drunk on the job. So rather than stay with her classmates in their evacuation center, Emily sets out on her own.

The story moves back and forth in time, as she recollects and records the events and decisions that led her to where she is when she’s writing it down. Like many teens – especially teens using drugs or alcohol, or with poor impulse control, or serious self-doubt – Emily’s recollections are not linear. She bounces from subject to subject, introducing characters and then saying, “but I’ll explain later.” She also has issues with trusting authority figures and may not be telling the entire truth all the time, in an effort to shield herself, her parents or her companions. To say she’s an unreliable narrator is putting it mildly.

Often, I was irritated with her, but I grew to like her and root for her. She was intelligent, resilient, tried to be responsible, and very vulnerable. By the end I was so worried about her I cried out when it was over … I wanted to know what is next for her and I was afraid to know.

Grace Blewer does a fine job narrating the audio version. Blewer is Bohjalian’s daughter, and she helped him with the slang and cadence of speech so that he could write in a more-believably-teen-aged voice. The audio has a bonus interview with author/father and narrator/daughter which was very informative.

Ladyslott | 1880 comments I very much enjoyed this book and was rooting for Emily. When I learned the reason for the title I cried.

Jennifer Pope (jenjunum) | 902 comments I was frustrated by many of her choices too but I also liked this one. A different kind of take on a common genre. I thought it felt very realistic.

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