Friday, February 04, 2022

Jude Banks, Superhero, by Ann Hood

After the death of his beloved sister, Jude and his family deal with their grief.  His parents are both deeply lost in depression, but for twelve year-old Jude it is more anger and guilt.  With good reason, he believes that he was responsible inadvertently for his sister's death.  Reconciling that knowledge with his sense of loss, Jude finds it hard to imagine that he could ever feel happy again, but he develops a fantasy that he is some sort of superhero.  All around him, he notices how fragile life is and how easy it is to die young.  In response, he envisions himself as some sort of superhero, capable of rescuing kids before they die and thus preventing what he could not prevent with his own sister.

There's a later glimmer of hope when he meets Clementine in a grief support group and they develop a strong bond.  She, too, lost a sister and seems to understand what Jude is feeling in a way that his peers mostly don't.  But too late Jude realizes that Clementine's feeling are of a different and more dangerous nature and he is out of his depth in trying to console her.

Intended as a book for young people who are coping with the loss of a sibling, I can see how learning about another child's experience might be helpful, but it's a dreary example.  Jude alternates between despair and anger, and never quite manages to work through his feelings to start healing.  Instead, his grief seems just to slowly suck him (and his parents) down.  It's a sensitively-told story, but without any resolution there isn't much inspiration for a child who actually wants to feel better.

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