Never Ending was last modified: November 2nd, 2015 by Jenny Sawyer
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Posted on by Jenny Sawyer
Title: The Hired Girl
Author: Laura Amy Schlitz
Title: Bellweather Rhapsody
Author: Kate Racculia
Author: Martyn Bedford
Genre: Fiction (YA, realistic)
Year published: 2014
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Length: 304 devastating, but ultimately redemptive, pages
When Never Ending opens, you know one thing about Shiv: She’s lost her brother, Declan. Well, two things: She’s lost Declan, and she can’t get over her pain and guilt. That’s why she’s checking in to a cutting-edge clinic. There, she hopes, she’ll find a way to move on—even if that seems impossible.
The narrative to Never Ending progresses on two tracks: In the present, Shiv alternately works through, and clings to, her grief, as she’s led through a series of bereavement exercises at the clinic; in the past, Shiv and her family enjoy beautiful Greece, as the story moves inexorably toward the moment of Declan’s death. The stories eventually come together, of course. The question is: Can Shiv ever move past that fateful moment when her old life ended and her new life, without Declan, began?
In a less capable writer’s hands, Never Ending could have felt…never-ending. This is, after all, a book that spends 300 pages wrestling with a 15-year-old girl’s grief over losing her brother. It’s tough stuff, and the emotional realizations come s-l-o-w-l-y, often in a two steps forward, one step back pattern. Thankfully, interspersed with the heavy stuff, is the narrative of the fateful family vacation where Shiv lost her brother, Declan. A vacation that’s sun-drenched and golden…except for the specter of Declan’s demise, which haunts the flashes back in time.
Still, it’s an effective strategy. Shiv’s emotional journey is powerfully rendered, and it kept me—an often patient reader—interested. But for those who have less patience for the stages of grief and more of a desire for plot and action, the flashbacks provide as much. If there’s one thing to keep any reader turning pages, it’s the giant mystery hanging over the bulk of this story: What happened to Declan, and why does Shiv feel so guilty?
I’ve read many, many YA novels dealing with grief, and I’ve left many of them feeling manipulated—like the author was more interested in getting me to cry and to feel all the feelings than he or she was in genuinely exploring a painful subject. Never Ending is not among them. I did find this book devastating. But I also found it resonant, moving, and ultimately, redemptive.