A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti (The Last Forever and Honey, Baby, Sweetheart) was named a 2019 Printz Honor Book. It's about a teen girl who's recovering from a personal tragedy and decides to run across the country as a way to work through her trauma. Throughout her grueling journey, she recalls bit by bit the events leading up to the tragedy and eventually the incident itself. The story tackles several important issues, including behavioral expectations placed on young women, red flags in relationships, violence by young men, and the long-term effects of PTSD. There's a graphic scene of violence told in flashback, plus some alcohol consumption. Swearing is infrequent, as is kissing and making out.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In A HEART IN A BODY IN THE WORLD, the reader meets Annabelle as she's having a panic attack at a fast-food restaurant. Her solution is to start running east, resulting in a cross-country run from Seattle to Washington, D.C. As the story unfolds, we learn that a horrific tragedy lurks in her past, and she understandably is not dealing well with her guilt, anger, and deep grief. What exactly happened to her and her group of friends is kept a mystery throughout most of the book, unfolding in pieces as she runs, thinks, and confronts more of the memories that haunt her. Even though Annabelle starts her cross-country journey with no specific plan, her family and friends quickly rally around her, getting transportation, shelter, food, supplies, and eventually a PR strategy in place. As she challenges herself physically and mentally, she makes new bonds with the people she meets on her run and strengthens the bonds with those closest to her. Annabelle goes from running away from the tragedy to doing something about it and connecting with other survivors.
Is it any good?
This beautifully written story of a teen girl who decides to run across the country after a tragedy is an emotional look at teen violence, gender roles, and post-traumatic stress. Throughout A Heart in a Body in the World, author Deb Caletti manages a deft balancing act between Annabelle's pain and the uplifting trajectory of her physical and mental journey. The story is slow at the start and might be hard for some readers to get invested in right away, but it is worth sticking it out, as Annabelle's journey is thoroughly engaging. The supporting characters are wonderful and add a lot of humor and love to the story, which can be all too rare in YA. It takes quite a long time for the mysterious traumatic incident to be revealed, probably a little too long, and many of the metaphors are heavy handed (grizzlies lurking in the woods, a dark scary tunnel, a rickety bridge she needs to cross). Caletti doesn't start dropping concrete hints about what happened until well past the halfway point of the book. On the plus side, drawing it out is a way to bring the reader along with Annabelle as she forces herself to confront her memories, guilt, and anger. Trauma victims have a long road of recovery ahead of them, and this book makes that clear and heartfelt.
The run across the country isn't all terrible, though. Annabelle gathers an encouraging community of supporters as she goes, and she bonds with her hilarious and charming grandfather, who's following her and putting her up in his RV. Many complex issues are well articulated in the story, letting the reader feel deeply for Annabelle's struggles and cheer her triumphs.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the way obsessive love is portrayed in A Heart in a Body in the World and other books and movies. Some stories romanticize the idea of a male trying hard to "make" a woman love him. When does this behavior cross the line into creepy, obsessive, stalker behavior? Can something that might look romantic in a story be scary in reality?
Have you ever been made aware of an issue -- such as violence against women or a disease -- through an awareness campaign, like a run or bike ride? Has it ever made you more interested in an issue? Do you think those types of publicity campaigns are effective?
Do you have any activities you can lose yourself in when going through a tough time? How does it help you?
- Author: Deb Caletti
- Genre: Contemporary Fiction
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, High School
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Simon Pulse
- Publication date: September 18, 2018
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 13 - 18
- Number of pages: 368
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Award: ALA Best and Notable Books
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
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