Book Review: Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian

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Rating: 5 / 5

Full disclosure: I received an advance readers copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

Emily Shepard has been homeless the past nine months.  Though she didn’t get stellar grades in school, her counselor and teachers noted that she is smart, and can’t understand why she doesn’t seem to even be trying.  Emily wants nothing more than to be a poet like Emily Dickinson, and assumes that she’ll get things together before high school graduation.  That never happens, because the nuclear power plant in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont had a meltdown, and both Emily’s parents were killed.  Both her parents worked at the power plant, and even worse, her father was the lead engineer, and the general consensus is that it is his fault that the reactor melted.  With no where to go, and afraid that people will blame her for her father’s actions, she runs away, only to realize that home is where she belongs. 

Chris Bohjalian is one of my go-to authors.  His storytelling is amazing, and each book he writes has distinct characters and a distinct plot, but they always compelling, and Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands does not disappoint. Emily Shepard is a fascinating character, and even though she’s only a teenager, adults will gravitate towards her.  The circumstances she finds herself in are unimaginable, and it is hard not to root for someone who suddenly has no direction and no where to go.  Despite that, she still has a will to survive, and compassion to help others who, surprisingly, might be in worst shape than herself.

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands is Emily’s journal of the events, and it is raw, gritty, sometimes painful and sometimes hopeful.  She doesn’t always make the best decisions, but she makes the decisions any teenager would, and her voice is authentic and heartbreaking.  Though Emily is only sixteen, and it is told from her point of view, Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands is a novel I recommend for everyone. Bohjalian writes the novels that you’ll definitely want to read, and afterwards, find someone else who has also read it; Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands is no exception.

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