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Without Tess Hardcover – Oct 11 2011

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR); 1 edition (Oct. 11 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374361746
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374361747
  • Product Dimensions: 14.9 x 2.7 x 21.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 408 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,581,894 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


“Following up on themes raised in her well-received first novel, ‘Freak,’…Marcella Pixley continues to explore the complexities of sibling loyalty.”--New York Times
“Pixley's memory play is a difficult, sadly beautiful ode to a complex and heartbreaking issue.”--Publishers Weekly Online, Starred Review
“… [a] lyrical, heartrending novel.” --School Library Journal, Starred Review
“Pixley, who skillfully tackled another complicated sisterly relationship in Freak...takes a rather provocative step here: she sets up some alluring and imaginative magical conceits that will immediately catch the attention of fantasy readers just as they did Lizzie, and then mercilessly makes their appeal their danger.” --BCCB
“…smooth, well-paced, and contemporary.” --VOYA Online
“Pixley (Freak, 2007) once again plumbs the emotional depths of a tough subject with sensitivity and insight into the complexities of human nature and sibling bonds.” --Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

Marcella Pixley is a middle school language arts teacher and a writer. Her poetry has been published in various literary journals, and she has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her first book, Freak, received four starred reviews and was named a Kirkus Best Book of the Year. She lives in Westford, Massachusetts, with her husband and two sons.

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Amazon.com: 17 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Without Tess Nov. 1 2011
By Mundie Moms & Mundie Kids Book Reviews - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
3.5 stars

This is a well written book that touches on something that's rarely seen in YA books, and that's mental illness. The story itself centers on the young Lizzie, the forgotten sister who's constantly caught between her mentally ill sister and her parents who for the majority of the story are in denial over Tess's problem. Tess and Lizzie seem to have that fantastic childhood that's full of make believe and magic. Their world is one that takes them to different places and allows me them to be anything they want to be. It's full of possibilities, happiness and magic. Little by little the world that centers around the two sisters becomes darker and darker as Tess starts to blur the lines of make believe and reality.

Lizzie herself is one of these girls I wanted to reach out to. Now a teenager she's in therapy, turning to cope with what happened during her childhood. This poor girl is so strong and yet so broken. Her emotions and feelings of what happened through out the book were completely justified and understandable at times, and other times it was hard to connect with her. As a child there were times she knew something wasn't quite right, but she couldn't quite grasp what that was. Tess, the older sister was someone I despised from the get go. The things she does to her sister were not only harmful and selfish, but they permanently scared her sister. She had absolutely no regard to Lizzie's safety or anyone else's and didn't mind inflicting pain upon her. On the same token, it was a little heart breaking seeing how quickly she goes down hill.

Marcella really does a great job at taking readers into this delusional, darker world of her mental ill character. If she had gotten the help earlier on, I think there would have been a dramatically different out come for everyone, including Tess and Lizzie. I spent most of the book completely frustrated and irritated at Lizzie's parents who when it's apparent something is really wrong with their daughter are in such denial, that they inadvertently put both girls in harm, because they do not get Tess the help she desperately need. It's not until something happens to Lizzie do they finally get Tess the help she needs, but sadly it's far too late for it. I wasn't at all prepared for what takes place during this story when I sat down to read it, but it was something I couldn't stop reading.

While I found the story to be rich, and well developed, there were a few times I found the dialogue between Tess and Lizzie who are 10 and 11 at the time to be a little bit too mature for their age. There's also the topic of religion that is mentioned a few times in the story that I felt was a little out of place for what was going on. One of the things I really wanted to see develop more of was the sweet romance between Lizzie and one of the characters. I understand it was not a big part of the story until the very end, but it's one I wish hadn't sat on the back burner until then. The scene that takes place is heartbreakingly beautiful for both characters. Regardless, Without Tess is a truly powerful read that dives right into the dark world of mental illness and the effects it has not only on the person who has it, but those around them. This is a story I'd recommend to older YA readers.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Endearing Story of Mental Illness Oct. 12 2011
By Book Sake - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
When I started this one I wasn't expecting the story that came. This is a tale that weaves in and out of the present and the past, it's as much about Tess and her mental instability as it is about Lizzie and her need to hold onto the sister she loved. I find stories regarding mental illness fascinating and this one was really intriguing because of the fantasy world that Tess lived in. So many times I found myself holding my breath, wondering if that moment was the moment that would change Tess and Lizzie's world, I knew it would happen, I just didn't know when. While Tess is definitely in a different mind frame than most of us, she is still relatable which makes her endearing as she tries to hold on to what makes her happy. Lizzie, even as the little sister, knows the difference between fantasy and reality and at times tries to reel her sister in while at the same time, she wants to believe in her sister's world. It is a heartbreaking story about friendship, family, loss, and survival.

Reviewed by Jessica for Book Sake.
Grief and mental illness Oct. 29 2013
By Pink Amy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
Lizzie Cohen's older sister Tess died six years ago. Now fifteen Lizzie struggles to understand who her sister really was. Creative or mentally ill? Imaginative or delusional? As Lizzie begins to realize, the sister she thought she knew was someone much more disturbed than she realized and if that's true, is she also mentally ill?
Marcella Pixley has crafted an engaging coming-of-age story about grief, mental illness, sisters. Narrator Lizzie is both sympathetic and easy to root for.
The sort of read that left me with goosebumps Aug. 19 2013
By Katie - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Without Tess was quite the read. It was utterly chilling at times and once or twice I had to set the book down, take a big breath, and start reading again. I would recommend this for anyone over the age of 14 or so who also has a strong stomach and a love of poetry. It's lyrical writing is utterly compelling as well as haunting. It was a startling portrayal of mental illness and how far loyalty really can go. But let's get simple with some Pros and Cons.

Start with the Cons. The main would be that the poetry verses that Tess ( the narrator's mentally ill sister) writes that pop up every few chapters, are a bit unrealistic, regardless of the fact that Tess was obviously pretty dramatic and an excellent writer. I was wowed by the poetry and I respect this author highly. There's just no way an eleven year old could have written stuff like that. I didn't really mind that much, just because I was so sucked into the pure amazing writing that it all was. Another not so minor flaw to point out was the family's reaction to Tess's mental illness.

Right from the beginning it was pretty clear that there was something very wrong with this little girl. So why did the family wait so long to take action? I understand that she wasn't exactly burning the house down or threatening to kill them all or anything, but her mother remarked several times about the disturbing nature of the images she drew. ( A girl with her mouth violently stapled shut, and the mother doesn't blink?) Then there was a part when the girls went to the beach and completely stripped and lay naked in the waves, trying to turn into seals. And no one noticed?! Then, Lizzie (the narrator) walks back to her parents with a giant gash on her cheek. Again, neither bats an eyelash. The parents in general weren't mentioned nearly enough.

That aside, in every other sense this book came close to perfection. I could put my rationale aside and just enjoy it, which I would recommend for you to do. If you are someone who gets annoyed by the aformentioned, maybe wait on this one.

The Pros of this book would have to include that fantastic poetry. Some of those poems were utterly disturbing as Tess went deeper into psychosis and I couldn't tear my eyes away. The character of Lizzie is well drawn out enough so that she doesn't take up most of the story, just sort of sits in a counselor's office for ninety percent of it, refelcting on the various creepy poems and drawings of her sister. The ending is a bit abrupt, but I thought it was good enough. We can pretty much assume how Tess is going to die from the beginning, but her death scene still comes across as pretty haunting. Tess is without a doubt the main character, even though she isn't narrating. But that's okay, because she's an incredible one.

This was an excellent read. Not for the faint of heart, but really well done.
Without Tess (YA) March 9 2013
By Melissa A. Palmer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Book #26 Read in 2013
Without Tess by Marcella Pixley (YA)

This is a hard book to read. Lizzie is the younger sister of a mentally ill girl named Tess. Tess things she is magical, can shift into animals and is starving herself on purpose. Lizzie tries to take care of Tess, even at her own expense. Tess is eventually forced to begin therapy and medication but she would rather die than continue to live this way. Her decision fills Lizzie with guilt and confusion about how to live without Tess.

This is a powerful look at mental illness at a young age. Besides the effect on the mentally ill person, this book describes the aftermath on the family members as well as friends. This was a book that was like a train wreck, but I had to continue it to see how it would end up.