Jars of Glass by Brad Barkley and Heather Hepler
Reasons for reading: I really liked the authors' two previous books; Young Adult Challenge
Description: "Teenage sisters Chloe and Shana recall fondly the days when their mother wove stories about kingdoms under the sea. Now that Mom is "away," Chloe does not allow herself to believe in fairy tales. She is too busy caring for her adopted brother, Micah, because Dad has become withdrawn. Shana copes by escaping every night under the cover of Goth garb. The day the family visits Mom for the first time is the day Chloe learns why Shana will never allow their mother to return. It is up to the sisters to pull together and form a new definition of family."
First line: "I think there are these lies that we tell each other."
My thoughts: I enjoyed the authors' previous novels, Scrambled Eggs at Midnight (which I loved!) and Dream Factory more than this one. In the previous books, the alternating chapters were boy-girl and this worked much better than the two sisters in this book - I found that Chloe and Shana's voices weren't all that different.
But this book is still a compelling read that shows how a happy family can be turned completely upside-down through no fault of its own. There was no magic cure at the end that allowed them to live happily ever after. Their mother's illness affects everyone differently. The girls' father becomes a father in name only - he starts drinking, smoking, and ignoring his business and children. Shana wants to get out of the sad house and finds that her only escape route is to hide under layers of Goth makeup and go out with new friends. With an absent father and sister, Chloe is left to look after Micah (an adopted Russian orphan who has nightmares, doesn't understand much English, and copes by eating huge amounts of sugar). Chloe's in a bit of denial about her mother's condition, but she knows that she doesn't want to end up like her, so she gives up the artistic talents she shares with her mom.
The novel finds the girls trying to cope with the approaching visit of Micah's social worker, their father's neglect and depression, life in a new town, and the ever-present cloud of their mother's illness. I liked that the girls were each able to find their own new friendships and also, after a lot of fighting and misunderstandings, come together again as sisters. Their story doesn't necessarily end with a happily-ever-after, but there's at least some hope.
The verdict: While more distinction between the sisters and a sooner explanation of the horrible thing their mother did would've been welcome, this is still a well-written novel about the collateral damage of mental illness and the bonds of siblings.