The Stranger With­in Sarah Stein

  • Review
By – April 24, 2012
This book is a page turn­er. It deals with some inter­est­ing themes — divorce and its effects, trau­ma and sur­vival, dif­fer­ences between the exte­ri­or of an indi­vid­ual and who that per­son is inside, and clear­ing the name of per­son who has been false­ly accused.

Sarah, who is twelve years old, fights to main­tain her san­i­ty after her par­ents announce they are get­ting a divorce. She does this in a unique way. She clear­ly under­stands the per­son­al­i­ty each of her par­ents expects her to be. So, since they have joint cus­tody, when she is with her moth­er she is a prop­er, well dressed young lady. But when she is with her father, she is a motor­cy­cle-jack­et, Goth­make­up kind of per­son.

Crushed by their deci­sion to divorce, she ques­tions what they have done. How do peo­ple fall out of love? How is it pos­si­ble to love some­one so much one day and then the next treat them like a stranger?” In all ways they are at war, and I am the tro­phy.” Since Sarah feels her par­ents are no longer act­ing as par­ents, she enlists addi­tion­al sup­port and direc­tion from her grand­moth­er and from a home­less man whom she meets when he assists her after she has a bike acci­dent. These inter­ac­tions take the read­er into some unex­pect­ed twists and turns.

In addi­tion to fan­ta­sy, sus­pense, and mys­tery, the author gives read­ers some won­der­ful descrip­tions of New York City: “…the nois­es at night – all those loud foot­steps that jam like jack­ham­mers, the taxis buzzing like yel­low fire­flies…. The city feels like someone’s butt won’t get off the remote con­trol; it’s all fast for­ward and some­one hid the pause but­ton.” He also gives us glimpses into post 9/11 New York and the Holo­caust. Rec­om­mend­ed for read­ers ages 11 – 16.
Marge Kaplan is a retired Eng­lish as a Sec­ond Lan­guage teacher. She is a con­sul­tant for the children’s lit­er­a­ture group for the Roseville, MN school sys­tem and is a sto­ry­teller of Jew­ish tales.

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