Nothing To Lose

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Age Range
14+
ISBN
0060517506
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What choices do any of us really have?
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot 
 
5.0
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0.0
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0.0
Nothing to Lose is an incredibly heart-wrenching book because of the very strong story and believable protagonist, but also because of the all-too-true story of abuse that could have been ripped from the headlines of any newspaper across the world. Michael Daye has been on the run for a year, traveling with a carnival, but now hes back in his hometown of Miami, hoping not to be recognized for who he really is: the son of Lisa Monroe, currently on trial for the murder of her husband.

Walker, Michaels now-dead stepfather, was a horribly abusive man. As the book unfolds and every other chapter takes you back a year to when the trouble first really started (though I suppose you could argue it really started when Lisa first began dating Walker), you see that Michael did everything within his power to get his mother to leave. But, like many abused women, she didnt feel capable of it and stayed.

For the first time, he felt like he had an option other than just watching his mother get beaten by Walker. Kirstie, a carny, makes him realize that sometimes there really is nothing you can do. People have to want to help themselves. Michael finally gave up completely after outing Walker to an Emergency Room nurse and having his mother once again deny the abuse. He decided to leave everything behind and create a new life with Kirstie and the carnies.

But what really happened the night Walker died? Can Michael help his mother now? Will she accept his help or will her guilt hold her back? There are many questions and Alex Flinn masterfully twines everything together to come up with an effective and engrossing ending (though some may guess the truth early on, it is so well done you wont mind at all).

I recommend this book for readers aged 12 and up. There are some sexual situations (none graphic and none gratuitous) and some painful abuse/fighting scenes, so do keep that in mind. What Id really like to do is recommend this to women suffering under domestic violence. This book very clearly shows how abuse challenges and changes every member of the household.

If you or someone you love is in such a situation dont hesitate. Get help. Your local phone book will have listings for local organizations and the Internet also offers help. Just search for domestic violence or similar terms.
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Recommended Destiny
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot 
 
4.0
Characters 
 
0.0
Writing Style 
 
0.0
Set in modern day Florida, Nothing to Lose by Alex Flinn follows a teenage boy whose mother has been accused of killing her abusive husband. For two years, Michael attempted to protect his mother and repeatedly tried to get her to leave his stepfather. She refused to leave, even as her husband's temper flared and their home situation worsened. Finally, Michael ran away to work at a traveling carnival; shortly thereafter, his stepfather was dead and his mother was imprisoned.

A year after he left, Michael comes back to Florida with the carnival and finds out that the jury selection is beginning for his mother's trial. She has confessed to the murder, and her attorney is discussing battered spouse syndrome. Michael must decide whether or not to speak up in his mother's defense and tell the truth about what happened in his stepfather's home.

Michael's downward spiral is explained well without ever being heavy-handed. He had decent grades, football, friends and a social life, but as the abuse at home increased, he quit football so that he would have more time at home to look after his mom. After losing his jock friends, he reluctantly starts hanging out with a kid who is now known as a bit of a geek - but used to be his best friend in middle school. When Michael meets Kirstie, a dark-haired beauty a few years his senior, at the carnival, he discovers that he can have his own life - but at what expense? When he returns to Miami a year later, he again must weigh his choices and decide what and who are the most important things in life.

Nothing to Lose is a well-written book that deftly weaves in the protagonist's past and present, with each chapter simply labelled "Last Year" or "This Year." It moves along at a steady pace, never breaking form nor dragging its feet. It is a compelling story that will keep the reader on edge until the very end.

Alex Flinn has written three books thus far, the other two being Breaking Point, about peer pressure and popularity, and Breathing Underwater, about teenage dating and abuse. Though I liked all three of Flinn's books, I think her writing has greatly improved with the passage of time. Her first novel, Breathing Underwater, gets two and a half stars from me; Breaking Point snags three stars; and Nothing to Lose deserves four stars. Also, while you should never judge a book by its cover, I have to give two thumbs up to the cover art for Nothing to Lose - the wheel of destiny.
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How hard is it to discover the truth?
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot 
 
4.0
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0.0
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0.0
Reader reviewed by librariane

Michaels life became complicated when his mother married Walker, a big lawyer in Miami. His
mother swears shes sticking to the marriage all for him, but Michael wishes his mother would
leave the abusive situation. She claims that Walker will kill them both if she tries to leave, so she continues to live in fear. Michael finds a way of escape through the carnival that comes to town, especially through a girl named Kirsten. She encourages him to run away with them and be a
carnie, and Michael is about to, when something drastic happens at home to make him rethink
leaving.

Told in alternating chapters of then and now, readers get to see the whole picture of what
happened the fateful night Michael decides to run away from home. This format lends itself well
to this story, as it is a fast-paced, action-packed novel. Michael is a believable character, despite the flip-flopping chapters, and readers will be able to sympathize with him and his situation (i.e. I got mad at his mom, too, when she refused to admit she was in trouble). Many teens may not be able to fully identify with this book, but they will be able to find some aspects of the book true to their own lives.

Note: There is a bit of language in the book, the husband is abusing the wife, and the murder is partially described (blood splatters, etc.).
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A great read!
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot 
 
5.0
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Reader reviewed by safia

Michael has ranaway and joined a carnival. However, the carnival is now returning to his hometown and Michael must revisit his past. His mother is currently on trial for murdering her abusive husband. Michael must come to terms with both his past and future in order to help his mom and himself.

I'm not sure I described the book well. It's a great book and touched me emotionally. It also sorta reminded me of Freaky Green Eyes by Joyce Carol Oates.
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