Everything Beautiful in the World
by Levchuk, Lisa

Edna refuses to visit her mother, who is in a hospital undergoing cancer treatment, and barely speaks to her father, who finally puts her in psychotherapy, while her crush on an art teacher turns into a full-blown affair.

LISA LEVCHUK teaches high school English and lives in Easthampton, Massachusetts. This is her first book.

*Starred Review* Seventeen-year-old Edna is in the midst of having a fight with her mother when a telephone call forces her mother to say, "All fights postponed." She has been told she has cancer. So begins an interesting experiment in writing that gives this book a quite different sound from so many YA novels with their ubiquitous first-person voice. In a flat tone that s much more reportage than confessional, Edna relates how an affair begins with her art teacher, Mr. Howland, while her mother is in the hospital. Making it clear she will not visit her mother, and ignoring a father who ignores her, Edna is given a "free pass" to do what she wants. And what she wants is to live in the cocoon that surrounds her and Mr. Howland, eating lunches in seclusion, going to their secret spot for sex. Although this story has been done before, it is the way Levchuk writes it that is both startling and affecting. Reminiscent of Brock Cole s remote style in The Facts Speak for Themselves (1997), this technique allows readers to get farther inside Edna s head than she is herself. We see, more clearly than she does, how Mr. Howland can annoy her and how his neediness scares her. Her questions about a long-dead brother reveal more about her than she would be comfortable with anyone knowing. There are some flaws. Although the book is set in the 1980s, Edna s mother s long hospital stay seems necessary to accommodate the plot rather than her illness, and the end seems rushed. But, overall, Levchuk does a remarkable job of writing a novel that offers the facts on the pages; all the emotion is underneath. Copyright 2008 Booklist Reviews.

Student-teacher affairs have become a staple in YA literature (Teach Me, Nelson, 2006; Boy Toy, Lyga, 2007), but Levchuk defies convention by making the relationship a symptom rather than the cause of mental and emotional distress. Short, present-tense chapters reveal 17-year-old Edna's quirks: her absurd but lingering worry that her autistic older brother was killed by his psychiatrist, her tendency to observe and distance herself, her almost pathological fears regarding health and death and her obsession with affairs (her own, her boss's). But Edna also possesses a peculiar wisdom and astounding self-knowledge. Even as she grapples with her mother's lengthy hospital stay for cancer, the effects of Vietnam on many of the adults around her (it's 1980) and her own unhealthy relationship with Mr. Howland, her guilt-ridden, unhappy ceramics teacher, she recognizes her mistakes. At the end, this awareness leads to action and Edna moves beyond the unhealthy relationship and the fears that have shackled her. An odd and unsettling but ultimately rewarding read by a debut author who is going places. (Historical fiction. 14 & up) Copyright Kirkus 2008 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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