2013 Truman Possibility 21: Without Tess by Marcella Pixley

Posted December 7, 2012 by Lisa Mandina in / 2 Comments

This is the last of the 25 books for the possible Truman nominee list that I was able to actually read before the deadline this past Monday.  And actually, I didn’t even finish it in time to rate it.  But I was halfway through, and needed to see where it went, so I finished it.
Without Tess is a very strange story from the start.  The main character, who is telling us the story, is Lizzie Cohen.  Tess is her older sister that died when she was 11 years old.  Lizzie hasn’t quite gotten over Tess’s death.  In fact, she feels somewhat responsible.  Something that we don’t know why until the end.  Tess is a little wacky.  Even though it is when they are young girls that we’re first introduced to them through Lizzie’s memories, you can tell there is something just not right about Tess.  The games they play.  How Tess seems to really believe that she isn’t a mortal, but a selkie.  The things she has Lizzie do, and then there’s the poetry she writes.  Now, call me crazy, but I feel that if Tess died at the age of 11, even if she was mentally unstable, what girl that age uses the kinds of words she did?  I mean, I guess since their mother was a writer, they were probably reading at a young age, and they heard the writers’ group talking.  But it still seems a bit above the head of a girl at that age.
Lizzie is seeing a shrink, at school, and he is having her use Tess’s Pegasus Journal of poems and drawings to help with her therapy.  But Lizzie is turning in the poems as her own in one of her classes.  Until she must do a group project where their partner will critique the poems and she must then re-work them.  At that point we begin to really get to some of the not so good crazy things that Tess did.  How she didn’t eat, because she was sure in her head she wasn’t a mortal, and got skinnier and skinnier.  How she didn’t like the new friend Lizzie was making, even though it had been Tess’s idea in the first place for Lizzie to make her a friend.  It is Isabella, and now at 16, Niccolo that will stay by her and help her to come to grips with her sister Tess, and work on getting past her feelings of guilt, and discover that it wasn’t her fault, and she can’t be blamed for what her sister did.
In a way this was a very interesting look into the mind of a child with a mental illness.  And what it would feel like to have an older sibling, that you looked up to and was your best friend for the longest time, only to find out as you got older that they weren’t all there, and it wasn’t okay the things they did.
Very deep, a good ending, a very serious read.

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2 responses to “2013 Truman Possibility 21: Without Tess by Marcella Pixley

  1. Definitely agree about this being a strange story from the start-I love stories about sisters so that was a big draw for me but I was a little thrown by how dark it was since I tend to prefer lighter stories.

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