The River's EdgeFeatured
“Sears has written a hard-hitting coming of age novel that pulls the curtain off of family secrets and shame. She lovingly captures the innocence of the time, and then swiftly and honestly shows the darker side of it.” — Jo Knowles, author of Read Between the Lines
“Such a fresh voice . . . a lovely, painful, powerful coming of age story. Truly chilling and captivating.” — Diane LesBecquets, best-selling author of Breaking Wild
“Tina Sears is a brave and compassionate writer with a vital story to tell. I believe this will be a book with the power to heal.” — Mitch Wieland, author of God’s Dogs
“Tina Sears tackles a tough subject, having written about the thievery of innocence. If there was ever any doubt about the need to tell about such a crime, it is dispelled in this lovely coming of age story set in the 1970s.” — Laurie Salzler, author of After a Time
Forced to spend the summer of 1976 with relatives, Chris Morgan faces many challenges. Her mom and dad are splitting up and she hates being away from them. Now she has to make some tough choices about what she knows is right or giving in to the expectations of her new friends. Surrounded by the danger of the river and the shadows of her uncle’s past, Chris realizes her carefree childhood is ending.
While the beginning of the novel introduces young adult readers to a time they may not know, Sears has painted such a realistic picture of summer in the 70s that may juxtapose the experiences of readers. But through these differences of time and place there is still the beautiful, but untouchable mean girl (Julie), the sweet boy next door (Reds), and a cast of other characters who offer a sense of escape for Chris as the summer carries on. Because Chris must hide a dangerous secret from both family and friends.
Tina Sears brings readers to the edge of childhood innocence and takes them across the line into the brutality of sexual assault. Such is handled with tact and care. In the vein of Ellen Hopkins, this debut author tackles topics which (still) too often appear as taboo within the YA literary world. Sears is unafraid to show the monsters in real life, but does so with careful consideration for her main character, Chris. This is not the kind of book that is gratuitous by any means, yet it shows just enough of the disturbing side of family secrets and sexual assault to convince the reader that Chris's fear is justified throughout the story.
Life continues on even as tragedy happens, just as it does in the real world beyond these pages. Chris's parents are struggling with the idea of divorce back home, her mother on the verge of her own darkness and depression. And then there is Reds, who is such a welcomed breath of innocence in a story that loses such to the act of violence.
Throughout this summer of dance marathons and underage drinking, falling in love, and drowning in darkness, there is the river. The unpredictable way it flows forward, waters raging, serves as a sort of metaphor within the story. Chris's life becomes unpredictable, her own self raging at the fact that something has been stolen by someone she trusts. And we learn what has been taken can't be given back.
Despite the realization of what sexual assault takes from a person, especially one so young, there is also the revelation that there is bravery in overcoming such scars: "We all have our scars to carry with us. Scars are a sign of bravery."
Throughout the course of this stark and authentic narration told from Chris's first person point of view, the reader grows closer to the urgency and terror that she feels, which only pushes the story forward at a fast-paced speed. While the content may disturb, readers will need to know that Chris is okay.
This is the kind of novel that offers an extra element of poignancy because of the times in which it is told. Without cell phones and other such technology there is the added element of isolation that takes Chris on the path to awakening. Such seems to be understood by the author and used as a tool to bring a story of this caliber to light.
Perfect for fans of Ellen Hopkins, this novel is one filled with sweetness and sensibility, terror, truth, and above all else, bravery, and love. Chris is the kind of character who can help victims of similar situations to feel connected, while also bringing empathy to readers who may not understand such horrors.
The River's Edge is a haunting novel that resonates long after the last page, and Tina Sears is an author to watch in the future for further works that will contribute the same catharsis to our ever-darkening world.
The story started off slow but picked up very quickly, throwing readers into the summer of 1976. Chris' mother takes her to live with her Aunt Lori and Uncle Butch and their two girls, Wendy and Paige. Chris becomes fast friends with the girls and spends her time trying to get into the inner circle of friends that Wendy used to have and still longs to be a part of. Julie is the head of this group, and Chris finds that trying to impress Julie gives her a sense of belonging. The inner circle brings her moments of despair as well, though, when she realizes that looking older and doing risky things like smoking and drinking are not all they are cracked up to be. Her relationships with her cousin Wendy and friend Julie lead her into the previously unknown territory of boys, and she enjoys the attention, much to her later chagrin.
Chris' journey is one of self-discovery, as she navigates the tricky waters of self-esteem, self-worth, and the courage it takes to be stronger than you ever thought you needed to be. The story is often written with simple words, but they serve as a subtle reminder of a simpler time, when life shouldn't have been difficult, but still found a way to be. Many a lesson can be learned through Sears' compelling writing, including how even those who have people to confide in can get swept up in feelings of loneliness and alienation. Hiding inside one's own body and mind is a scary concept that no one should feel they have to deal with alone.
It was hinted at that there was the possibility that Chris was not alone in her troubles and that her cousins and friends could have even been navigating the same murky waters that Chris found herself constantly treading. It would have been nice to hear if these were just thoughts Chris had or if there were even shreds of truth to them. However, the uncertainty creates a compelling wonderment that would not exist otherwise. It also shows how Chris, who often feels alone, can find solace in but a few words that a friend of hers in the story plainly states: "You can see everything. Or you can see nothing at all." There are no truer words, especially when it comes to questioning oneself and others, and knowing when to speak up and forget about burying one's head in the sand. Sears' debut novel packs a punch and engages readers with real-life issues that many teens, and even many adults, face. A definite title to add to any contemporary young adult fan's reading list.
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