Hand Me Down
By Melanie Thorne
(Dutton Adult, Hardcover, 9780525952688, 320pp.)
Publication Date: April 12, 2012
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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A tough, tender, debut novel, in the tradition of Dorothy Allison and Janet Fitch, Hand Me Down is the unforgettable story of a girl who travels between California and Utah in search of her true family, having never been loved best of all.
Fourteen-year-old Elizabeth Reid has spent her life protecting her sister, Jaime, from their parents' cruel mistakes. Their father, who'd rather work the system than a job, pours every dollar into his many vices, denying his daughters the shoes and clothing they need. Their mother, once a loving parent, is going through a post-post-adolescent rebellious streak and finds love with a dangerous ex-con. When she chooses starting a new family over raising her first-born girls, Elizabeth and Jaime are separated and forced to rely on the begrudging kindness of increasingly distant relatives.
A string of broken promises that begins with Liz's mother swearing, "I would never hurt you, Liz. You're family," propels her between guest beds in two states searching for a safe home. All the while, Liz is burdened by her stake in a bleak pact with a deceitful adult: to tell the truth about the darkest of her circumstances will cost her the ability to shelter Jaime. As Liz spirals into the abyss of fear and shame that haunts her sleepless nights, can she break free from her bonds in time to fight for her life?
Thorne writes with a command of language that is at once affecting and enticing. Her debut is the kind of voice-driven reading experience fiction lovers crave.
Melanie Thorne earned her MA in creative writing from the University of California, Davis, where she was awarded the Alva Englund Fellowship and the Maurice Prize in Fiction. She lives in northern California.
“Here’s a mother every reader will love to hate. . . . A sad, compelling read.”
“Melanie Thorne's debut novel is raw with emotion as she describes Liz's often futile efforts to protect her sister and herself from the predator their mother has invited into their lives. It is often hard to remember that this is, in fact, a novel and not a memoir… Thorne's novel is an eye-opener… she leaves the reader haunted by a nagging question: What happens to the children who are not so lucky?”
-M. L. Johnson, Associated Press
“Difficult to read, but impossible to put down—this is perhaps the best way to describe Melanie Thorne’s debut, Hand Me Down. Like Janet Finch’s 1999 bestseller White Oleander, this is a raw and all too realistic story about a California teen forced to move from house to house—and often from bad situation to worse—after her well-intentioned but self-centered mother makes a life-changing choice.”
"First-time author Thorne wears her heart on her sleeve in this semi-autobiographical tale about a 14-year-old who juggles equal amounts of hope and despair in her chaotic daily life… Liz continues to narrate her journey with prose that vibrates with intelligence and passion… Liz is a wise, wry, wonderful heroine.”
–Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“Thorne writes convincingly from an adolescent’s perspective, admitting to having mined her own experiences. The family is believably and sadly dysfunctional, and readers will empathize with each character through their highs and lows....This is an intriguing first outing by a talented new writer.”
"Hand Me Down is a compelling, intelligently contemporized version of a traditional coming-of-age story full of family betrayals old and new."
-Pam Houston, bestselling author of Cowboys are My Weakness
"The novel is sad, strong, evocative as hell, and all together terrific. Liz emerges as quite a likeable and unlikely hero."
-John Lescroart, bestselling author of Damage
"The prose here is sharp, fresh, deeply felt, and grimly funny.”
-Clifford Chase, author of <I>Winkie</I>
“Thorne deals sensitively with a difficult topic, and the novel's adolescent perspective is sure to find popularity with YA audiences.”