Walking on Glass

Walking on Glass, by Alma Fullerton, is a sad and moving book. It is a story told by a teenage boy, in short journal entries, in short sentences of carefully chosen words. It tells of a mother who has turned from her family in deep depression, and now is kept alive, if it is life, by machines at the hospital. Her son almost saved her from her suicide, and now must be the one who ends her life.

It is not easy reading.

I don't doubt for a second
that most people think
what I want to do
is wrong.
But I don't want to
my mother.
I want to set her

Within this spare prose the author contains several themes common to many ya books-- a friend who is taking a downward path in life, towards violence and alienation; a beautiful girl offering the hope of love; a father who is distant, trapped in his own pain. But mainly this book is about finding the freedom to remember beyond the pain of the present, into the past when love didn't give any clues that the pain would come.

I remember
her soft voice
floating through the air
like the smell of fresh roses,
as she sings me a lullaby
to take away
the monsters in the night.

We never learn the narrator's name, perhaps because if we had to be told, we would be less inside his story. At the end of his journal, after we have traveled with him to his mom's final death, we are left with hope that what his mom has given him of what is good in life will help him be able to go forward. The sneakers that were her last gift to him finally fit.

I wouldn't have picked this book up if it hadn't been nominated for a ya Cybils award. I have a vague prejudice against books that don't have lots of words on every page, preferring thick story I can escape into. But I was glad to follow this story slowly and carefully, as the layout of the pages demanded, taking the words that the narrator/author offered.

(Frivolous aside: I am extremely fond of metaphor, and found a great deal here to keep me happy. If there was ever an author who had a "How many metaphors can you find hidden in this book" contest, I would play).

Walking on Glass is called free verse on the jacket flap, which my mind instantly grabbed as another metaphor, but I'm not sure I agree with the categorization. Does placing the words in arrangements other than straight lines make something verse? Frog and Toad does this. I would like to know what Alma Fullerton thinks. I will ask her.

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