Running toward Healing: Deb Caletti’s A HEART IN A BODY IN THE WORLD

Lynn: It happens without warning: Annabelle has been trying to hold it together for a long time but suddenly she snaps and, in one panicky moment, she is running. “Snapping is easy when you’re already brittle from the worst possible thing happening,” she says. This is the reader’s introduction to Annabelle Agnelli and her journey in Deb Caletti’s immersive new book, A Heart in a Body in the World (2018). Annabelle runs and runs and, as it gets dark, she realizes she has run all the way from Seattle to the suburb of Renton; her terrified mother is trying to reach her; and she has made a decision. She is going to keep on running, across America, all the way to Washington, D.C., because, “She needs this so bad.”

A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb CalettiSomething terrible has happened in Annabelle’s life, and we don’t know what, only that she has PTSD, and is in therapy, and everyone is deeply worried about her. Caletti uses this plot device brilliantly. As Annabelle runs, we are with her, experiencing what she does, hearing her thoughts and feeling every step she takes. Information about the traumatic event is slowly revealed as each new experience triggers memories and reactions. As Annabelle runs, she begins to process her complicated feelings of grief and guilt, to reflect, and finally to heal.

This structure drives the pacing and Caletti’s use of first-person intensifies the immediacy of the story, forcing us as readers to work through the minefield of emotions and confusion Annabelle is grappling with. Adding to the richness of the story is a wonderfully depicted cast of characters including Annabelle’s little brother, her grandfather trailing behind in his RV, friends who form a PR team, and her worried mom. Annabelle’s interactions with them provide warmth and wit and, with every carefully crafted word, an enhanced understanding of Annabelle as a deeply compelling individual.

The final scenes as the causal event is revealed are searing but also connect the final links in our understanding of this complex chain of events. This is a book that will stay with readers and it is through Caletti’s skill as a writer that this complex situation becomes an inspiring wake-up call. The heart can break but it can also heal and hope.

About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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