Review: Circle Nine by Anne Heltzel
Published September 13th 2011 by Candlewick Press
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
“Circle Nine” tells the story of Abby, a teenager who has no recollection of her life before Sam – a mysterious boy she met before the fire. It’s obvious from the beginning that the relationship between Sam and Abby is wrong. You know that he’s hiding information from her, you know that he’s hiding her from the world but you’re never really quite sure why. Abby sees the cave, their home, as a palace. She doesn’t see the mattress full of holes at first; she sees a king’s bed. She doesn’t see the roaches and the filth, she only sees the beauty. She doesn’t really see who Sam is, not until Amanda shows up and forces her to start questioning things.
Amanda’s presence upsets Abby’s world. She feels as though she’s trying to steal Sam away from her. They go out late at night together, always leaving Abby behind. Then one night, Amanda and Sam get into a fight and something happens to Amanda. She knows about Abby, she wants to take her away from there – from Sam – but he isn’t going to let that happen.
As Abby begins to remember her life before Sam, as she begins to remember the fire, her parents, her sister, “Circle Nine” becomes impossible to put down. This isn’t an easy book to read. Both Abby and Sam, although it’s easy to hate him, are frail characters. They are broken, and for a while, they manage to complete each other…until the truth comes out.
At times its hard to follow along with the story, especially in those moments when Abby’s perception of reality changes so quickly: one minute she’s seeing the filth of the cave, of Sam, and the next minute she’s seeing the ‘beauty’ of their world. One sentence would state the ugly and the next would state the beauty she saw. Given that Abby’s still grasping reality, I understand the purpose, but it changed too suddenly and sometimes it got to be confusing.
Overall, I liked “Circle Nine”. It wasn’t what I was expecting, but I had trouble tearing myself away from the story. Note: Sam and Abby’s relationship is an abusive one and there is drug use within the story, so it’s important to note that this story won’t be for everyone. If you decide to read “Circle Nine”, which you should, I’d suggest setting aside a few hours of free time to read it within a single sitting. I made the mistake of starting it late at night and staying up well into the morning hours because I needed to know what happened next. It’s a difficult story to take in, and the ending leaves you with something to be desired, but it’s a well written novel worthy of a read.