Following an automobile accident in which her neck is broken, a teenage karate champion begins a long and painful recovery with the help of her family.
This Australian import is, essentially, a realistic but uninspired portrayal of a 17-year-old's slow recovery after her neck is broken in a car accident. Adding irony to horror, athletic Anna has just won the first karate tournament on the way to a national competition. Alone with a pain she calls a "black vortex," she finds little comfort in her family's concern, her friend Hayden's romantic attentions and her schoolmates' news of life outside the sickroom. Key passages of the book take the form of an internal monologue to reveal how Anna, stripped of her athletic capabilities and normal appearance, seeks ways to redefine herself. Feelings of resentment and anger against the man who crashed into her and Hayden alternate with rage against God, as Anna wonders what remains of her former self and grapples with larger moral issues (would instant death from a severed spinal cord have been luckier than a broken neck?). Orr uses pat devices to bring Anna's dismantled self back together (kindness and romantic interest from a college dropout who works at her mother's nursery; careless mining of psychological platitudes), and her spare writing and flat tone won't help elicit much personal interest in Anna's plight beyond the bald medical facts. After working through the layers of Orr's story, readers looking for a solid core at the center will come up short. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)