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It's called Aspen Springs

and it's the place where you go
when you've reached the end.
Suicide attempts, drug abuse,
depression, bipolar disorder, cutting:
all that is here, and here
is where you heal.

Tony, Vanessa and Connor

have come to Aspen Springs
for their own reasons.
Each is both a survivor
and a killer
(but maybe not how you think).

Tony has only once known love
and never known his father,
but he cannot begin a normal life
without his father's help.

By all accounts he should be
considering drug addictions and his years in juvie,
he is also a good listener
who knows a healthy relationship
is possible
some way, some how.

Vanessa's story? She's bipolar,
only no one knows.
Her days, depressive blue and manic white,
are relieved only by the red
of her self-inflicted cuts.

Unlike Tony, she has
family who loves her:
a brother
a grandmother
a father in the armed services, stationed away from home
but they are all guarding a secret:
Vanessa's mother
also bipolar
fell victim to her disease.

Connor, a rich golden boy
convinced of his prowess with women,
collapsed under pressure
from a lack of love and
a memory he tried to hide.

His family is like glass:
perfectly formed
and millions of tiny cracks,
nearly imperceptible individually
can be hidden,
but left untreated they eventually lead
to a complete breakdown.

Together, they will
form friendships
fall in and out of love
kiss and tell
teach and learn
confess, defend, explain and explore.

Level Four

Each stay at Aspen Springs ends
at Level Four,
an outdoor survival course.
Miles of desert
minimal vegetation
hot days and freezing nights
and no one to depend on
but themselves and two guides.

Out in the desert,
with nothing to think about
except their survival and their futures,
Tony, Connor and Vanessa will learn truths
about themselves
and each other
and they will have to answer the biggest question of all:

How can they live outside of Aspen Springs,
haunted by everything that put them there?

Even if you're not into poetry

You'll be amazed
at how three
diverse, complex, real stories
can be told in so few words.

Slowly and with attention to detail
(a little bit like therapy)
three stories of near-death experience
unfold to show
that Connor's perfection is grounded in fear and desire
that Vanessa's cutting is an outlet for much greater pain
and that Tony must believe in the impossible
before he has the possibility to recover.

Just as Tony, Vanessa and Connor are drawn to each other
you will be drawn to them
as they tell their stories
in their minds
in therapy
in the cafeteria
of the protected, not-quite-private, privacy of Aspen Springs.

Reviewed by on October 18, 2011

by Ellen Hopkins

  • Publication Date: January 23, 2007
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
  • ISBN-10: 1416903569
  • ISBN-13: 9781416903567