Heltzel, A. (2011). Circle nine. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.
YA Mystery / Contemporary /Psychological Thriller
QuickNEasy*, 260 pages, ages15+
I gave this one 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.
It is hard for me to say this is a good story, as it's really pretty disturbing what the mind will allow when it is traumatized. The brain will allow and accept alternate truths and delusions so that it doesn't have to deal with reality and repress anything disturbing.
But it is a good story, intelligently written with good characterization where it was important. I pretty much read it straight through because the pieces of the puzzle were enticing me to want to see the whole, completed picture. There were enough hints that I knew the complete picture was going to be ugly, but I had to know. I desperately needed an explanation.
Our main character, seventeen-year-old Abby, lives in utter bliss. She doesn't remember anything except Sam, and Sam is everything to her and she everything to him. Their life seems like a fairy tale, but there is blurring at the edges to signal something's terribly off. Abby's reality is richly descriptive, and like Abby, the reader wants to believe in the decadent life Abby is living.
Abby's complete and utter dependence on Sam is frustrating, and Sam's complete and utter control over Abby even more so; but there is so much below the surface and neither is truly completely in control or completely controlled. Again, running beneath the surface was this NEED for me to find out why Abby was so passive and easily manipulated. . . I kept on reading.
Recently, the books I've been reading haven't had satisfactory resolutions at the end, but that is not the case for Circle Nine. Though we don't have all the answers, and we don't know exactly what happens around the bend, the direction the story leads makes sense. There is some hope for Abby, even after the dire and depressing life she's lived.
I could definitely see this being made into a movie. . .
So, the Clean-O-Meter is tough on this one. There is abuse -- serious, ongoing psychological and sexual abuse. The sex isn't graphic or detailed, but it's there and the context makes it sickening. There is some mild vulgar language -- though a day later, I can't remember specifically which ones, indicating they were apropos for the situations. There are references to underage drinking and drug use, and drug addiction is a major component of the story though not blatantly so. So, maybe a 6.5 because it's done so well.
*I initially read this because due to the length, I thought it might appeal to reader who has little patience for lengthy stories; however, this isn't written at a low-level. The vocabulary is better than I'd expected, and there are plenty of literary references that the average reader may not know. Having said that, I don't think the vocab or references are show-stoppers to those who don't understand them, and they definitely enrich the story.