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After the Wreck, I Picked Myself Up, Spread…
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After the Wreck, I Picked Myself Up, Spread My Wings, and Flew Away

by Joyce Carol Oates

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What is there about this author that clearly wants to drag her stories into the ever darkest abyss?

Jenna is 15 and very close to her mother. Unfortunately on a sunny day while driving over the Tapanzee bridge, Jenna sees an object, commands her mother to stop and perhaps grabs the wheel, causing the car to swerve into the oncoming lane right into a truck.

Neither the driver of the truck or Jenna's mother survive. Badly broken, the story begins with Jenna in the ICU trying to make sense of just what happened and wondering if she was responsible for the death of two people.

Her father is a first class jerk who left the family years before, ran off with a younger babe and never will win the father of the year award. He is portrayed as someone who could look at the broken body of his daughter and decide to try to physically abuse her? After months of pain, Jenna leaves the hospital to live with a beloved Aunt and her caring husband.

A new school, new mother and father figure, two young cousins, , a new town, the loss of a beloved mother wherein Jenna blames herself and is supremely withdrawn, and no one gets therapy for this kid until she hangs with the wrong kid and has a wicked overdose on drugs?

Oates portrays the surrogate family as a wonderful, caring, perhaps over the top in acceptance. Yet why then depict them as slow to get help for her? I liked the beginning of the book and Jenna's admirable struggles to climb out of the wreck of her body and start a new.

Then, mid way through the ending, I grew to dislike Jenna and dislike Oates' writing.

Everything seemed plastic and over the top. It is obvious Oates struggled with YA genre.

No Stars for this one.
  Whisper1 | Feb 11, 2014 |
This is the first full novel I've read from JCO. I've read a couple of her short stories, and mostly liked them, but this? This showed me that Oates probably doesn't talk to people much (because her dialogue is awful), particularly teenage people (because every other sentence is punctuated with "I guess"). In the prose sections, it was okay, but once she got into the dialogue again, she retained the same flowing rhythm of the text--which nobody uses in speech, particularly high schoolers.

Writing style aside, there are a few plot holes. For starters, the narrator (Jenna) was in a car accident in May in which her mother was killed, so now she lives with her aunt and uncle in New Hampshire--but it's not until an accidental overdose at Christmas that the aunt and uncle put her in therapy.

On the whole, Jenna's reactions are probably genuine; they seem true to how a girl would feel and act in the wake of such an accident. (However, responding to many statements with "but this is AFTER the wreck" or "that was BEFORE the wreck" gets irritating). Unfortunately, true and accurate responses don't always make for interesting reading.

Also: how did I end up with TWO books at the same time that feature track runners, both of whom compete in the 800m sprint? ( )
  librarybrandy | Mar 29, 2013 |
I'm not sure why I didn't like this. It's a bit much for young adults, maybe? There's an awful lot of tragedy and pain in this book. I don't like the idea that "therapy doesn't work." That's a cop-out. If you stick with it or find a better therapist it works wonders. I also don't like the idea that her boyfriend "saved" her. ( )
  hollyhox | Apr 27, 2011 |
Reviewed by Sally Kruger, aka "Readingjunky" for TeensReadToo.com

Joyce Carol Oates's new book for teens has a long title and it really does sort of give away the ending. Although, the ending is probably not the most important, rather the journey and its twists and turns.

Jenna is in a tragic accident with her mother on the Tappan Zee Bridge. Her mother and the driver of the other car are killed, leaving Jenna a survivor, but at what cost? The circumstances of the accident are unclear. What Jenna does remember leads her to believe she might have been responsible.

As Jenna struggles to recover from her injuries, she lives in a drug-induced haze. Her father, who remarried years ago, has a new family. Jenna certainly doesn't feel welcome in his home, so she's told she will be living with an aunt and uncle. Her mother's house is sold and her new home comes complete with two cousins, a new school, and the sometimes nosey concern of a small town.

Attempting to cope with new surroundings and the death of her mother sends Jenna into a tailspin of emotions. She meets new friends, but gravitates to those who help her forget with pills and alcohol. An accidental overdose lands Jenna in the emergency room and under the care of a therapist. Despite the care and concern of her caregivers, her life continues to spin out of control.

Finally there is the arrival of Crow with his dark and mysterious side. Jenna finds she can talk to Crow about things she can't say to anyone else. Does he care about her? Does he have the answers to get her back on track?

AFTER THE WRECK, I PICKED MYSELF UP, SPREAD MY WINGS, AND FLEW AWAY captured me right from the start. Jenna's struggle felt authentic and true. I was touched by her pain and sensitive to her attempts to move on, only to drift back into confusion. Oates definitely outdoes herself with this one. ( )
  GeniusJen | Oct 9, 2009 |
love the title of this book. story of a teenage girl whose mother dies in a car wreck, which she survives. think the title explains alot about the book, how the young girl tried to "fly away" from the pain and memories. a quick and easy read. ( )
  amanaceerdh | May 20, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060735252, Hardcover)

In the raw was how the world felt now. My feelings were raw, my thoughts were raw and hurtful like knife blades. . . . In the blue had been my place to hide, now In the raw there was nowhere to hide.

Jenna Abbott separates her life into two categories: before the wreck and after the wreck. Before the wreck, she was leading a normal life with her mom in suburban New York. After the wreck, Jenna is alone, trying desperately to forget what happened that day on the bridge. She's determined not to let anyone get close to her -- she never wants to feel so broken and fragile again.

Then Jenna meets Crow. He is a powerfully seductive enigma, and Jenna is instantly drawn to him. Crow is able to break down the wall that Jenna has built around her emotions, and she surprises herself by telling him things she hasn't told anyone else. Can Jenna bring herself to face the memories she's tried so hard to erase?

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:39:33 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Blaming herself for the car accident on the Tappan Zee Bridge that killed her mother, fifteen-year-old Jenna undergoes a difficult physical and emotional recovery.

» see all 2 descriptions

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