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One For Sorrow by Christopher Barzak
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One For Sorrow (2007)

by Christopher Barzak

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When Adam's classmate and almost-friend Jamie is murdered, his ghost comes to Adam for comfort and acknowledgement. Adam too needs comfort, as his family breaks apart and he slides from his high-school niche of nobody-much to outcast status. Even though Jamie's ghost-world is cold and dangerous, with skinless men lurking by the gates, it is a place where Adam seems to have purpose, and for a time living companionship with the girl who found Jamie's body and is also haunted by him.
One for Sorrow has several themes & tropes in common with Tamsin, by Peter Beagle - the ghosts' memories are fragmentary and easily lost, and trying to recall traumatic memories breaks them apart; the living teens are faced with losing their ghost friends by helping them move on - but Tamsin is a fairly conventional mystery at its heart, and Barzak never attempts to solve Jamie's murder, which I liked. It did feel like a first novel, with the story wandering about rather once Adam runs away from home, and the spunky black girl who befriends him being, um, kind of Magical Negro, and Adam's family getting their act together perhaps a little too much while he's hiding out. Still and all, this was a memorable and original story.
  bmlg | Feb 24, 2011 |
Christopher Barzak's first novel is very good, I think. He captures something very profound and evanescent about being a teenage boy, and especially a confused and sad teenage boy. The narrator's (Adam's) friend, Jamie, is murdered, and his naked body is found stuffed beneath some train tracks. Jamie becomes a ghost and haunts Adam. The murder is (spoiler!) never solved - not only is the perpetrator never brought to justice, what actually happened to Jamie is never revealed. Barzak is much more interested in the nature of the haunting, and the nature of Adam's relationship with the ghost of his friend. To Adam, Jamie's ghost represents a sort of personification of what our friend Freud would call his sex-and-death drive. Adam is drawn to Jamie, but he is also drawn to a girl in his class, Gracie. The division of his desires, and the consequences of his desires, drives the narrative in fascinating directions. ( )
  kougogo | Nov 25, 2009 |
You need to go into reading it like a complete ghost story, rather then a story with a ghost. It is a complicated read. The descriptions of peoples, places and emotions are done well. I just didn’t flow well in many places and some parts were hard to believe – even for a ghost story. The over-all story is good, it just feels “herky-jerky” and doesn’t all tie in well. What I had difficulty with were the sections when the living character, Adam, goes into the worlds that are in-between. AHS/LB
  edspicer | Sep 21, 2009 |
Oh! They count crows in America – not magpies. Hence, I suppose, Counting Crows. It all makes sense now.

But the book: fifteen-year-old Adam is a high school misfit, a loner from a dysfunctional and borderline abusive family, caught up in a string of tragedies: his beloved grandmother dies, his mother is involved in a car crash that leaves her confined to a wheelchair, and then a classmate, a boy with whom Adam was almost friends, is found murdered in the nearby woods. Gradually Adam slips further and further away from reality and into the ghost world of the murdered Jamie.

Evocative, but bleak; I can't imagine revisiting this story. And a terrible confession: what resonated most with me was the mention of Youngstown, known only to me through the Springsteen song of the same name. In all fairness, it is one of my favourite songs … ( )
  phoebesmum | Sep 1, 2009 |
A very well written ghost novel mixed with a bit of "coming of age." ( )
  meganharris | May 21, 2009 |
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There was this kid I used to know who always sat in class with his head propped up in one hand.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0553384368, Paperback)

Part thriller, part ghost tale, part love story, One for Sorrow is a novel as timeless as The Catcher in the Rye and as hauntingly lyrical as The Lovely Bones. Christopher Barzak’s stunning debut tells of a teenage boy’s coming-of-age that begins with a shocking murder and ends with a reason to hope.

Adam McCormick had just turned fifteen when the body was found in the woods. It is the beginning of an autumn that will change his life forever. Jamie Marks was a boy a lot like Adam, a boy no one paid much attention to—a boy almost no one would truly miss. And for the first time, Adam feels he has a purpose. Now, more than ever, Jamie needs a friend.

But the longer Adam holds on to Jamie’s ghost, the longer he keeps his friend tethered to a world where he no longer belongs…and the weaker Adam’s own ties to the living become. Now, to find his way back, Adam must learn for himself what it truly means to be alive.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:46:02 -0400)

"Adam McCormick had just turned fifteen when the body was found in the woods. It is the beginning of an autumn that will change his life forever. Jamie Marks was a boy a lot like Adam, a boy no one paid much attention to - a boy almost no one would truly miss. And for the first time, Adam feels he has a purpose. Now, more than ever, Jamie needs a friend." "But the longer Adam holds on to Jamie's ghost, the longer he keeps his friend tethered to a world where he no longer belongs ... and the weaker Adam's own ties to the living become. Now, to find his way back, Adam must learn for himself what it truly means to be alive."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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