The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley by Shaun David Hutchinson

17 year old Andrew Brawley’s family was killed in a car crash, and after that night, Drew never left the hospital. He is not a patient; he has gone off the grid and is hiding out in an abandoned section of the hospital. He sleeps on a pile of sheets from the laundry, works in the cafeteria, hangs out in the ER and pediatrics, works on his graphic novel, and tries, tries, tries to avoid Death. Because she missed him the night she took his family, and he knows she is still after him. Still he cannot leave the hospital, because it was the last place he saw his family alive.

Rusty is brought into the ER after being horribly burned. Drew is there, horrified by Rusty’s screams of agony, but unable to leave. A horrible story is told of Rusty being set on fire intentionally at a party. Now Drew worries that Death will come for Rusty too and feels he must protect him.

The author puts all of Drew’s pain on the page and never lets you look away. Even the lighter moments are tinged with pain, death, suffering, guilt, and loss. Drew’s story is hard enough to imagine, but it was Rusty’s story that tore at me. When he tells Drew of his years of being bullied by his classmates, he says, “People always guessed I was gay… Not like I’m flaming or anything—or that it’d be bad if I were. It was just the worst-kept secret at my school. I never dated girls, Nina was always my bestie, and I sucked at sports.” Drew laughs and says, “Sucking as sports doesn’t make you gay.” “No,” replies Rusty, “but it makes you a target.” He explains that he was on a hit list. There were points for assaulting him. By the time he got to telling Drew about what happened when he was lit on fire, I had to set the book down. All I could think was, please don’t ever let that be my kid—the one brutalized for being different or the one cruelly bullying his classmates. I wanted to look away, but Hutchinson makes sure you can’t—look closer, his writing urges, as he describes in painful detail the humiliation and hatred. ~ Amber McGregor in School Library Journal

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