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A Face First

Review

A Face First

Kelley Brennan has a great day planned. It's Earth Day. Her sixth-grade class is going to plant a dogwood tree, and Kelley is going to give a speech to everybody about the project she did for science class to protect the wild bird hatchlings on top of the hardware store. She even gets up extra early to paint a picture of the world on her thumbnail in honor of the occasion. Kelley is excited about all these things. But there is something else in store for her that day, something that she didn't plan.

On the way home that evening, Kelley and her mother are in a car crash. Kelley wakes up in the Burn Ward of the hospital, with second- and third-degree burns on her right side --- her leg, her hand, and her face. She spends the next eight weeks in the hospital. Pins are drilled into her burned and broken leg. The nurses use tweezers to pluck the dead skin from her body, piece by piece. And the doctors have to take skin from other parts of her body and graft it into the burned parts. Then she has to wear a special mask fitted over her face to press against the new skin so it will grow in like it should, without being puffy and lumpy.

The pain is horrible, and Kelley is afraid and very angry. She can't remember how the accident happened, and at first she doesn't want to. She builds up a wall in her mind to block everything out. People say that the young trucker speeded out of nowhere, that Kelley and her mother were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Kelley is mad that the young man doesn't ever come to see her, to apologize or to admit what he did to her. And she's mad at the nurses who make her wear the face mask. When her friends come to see her, she's mean to them, and she throws all the mail from her classmates into a basket without reading it. She won't talk to anybody.

Kelley's mother was burned, too, but she wasn't hurt as badly as Kelley because there was an airbag on her side of the car. Every day she visits Kelley, with her canvas tote bag full of pretty, special gifts. She cooks Kelley's favorite foods and brings them to the nurses to give her. Kelley notices that her mother looks different than before --- more worried, tense, and strained. But her mother never complains.

Eventually, Kelley starts tearing down the mental wall she built, brick by brick, and she remembers the accident. Is it a dream, or did it really happen that way? She isn't sure. And she doesn't know what to do about it. Whose hands pulled her out of the car just before it exploded? Will she ever be able to piece her life back together and face the world with her mask on? Can she go back to school? Will her friends still like her? If you read this book, you'll discover how much courage it can take to face the truth and go on with your life.

Reviewed by Tamara Penny on March 1, 2001

A Face First
by Priscilla Cummings

  • Publication Date: March 1, 2001
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
  • ISBN-10: 0525465227
  • ISBN-13: 9780525465225