four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
32-Jan-Feb-2008
user_rating: 
0

A-One for SorrowWhen Jamie Marks is murdered outside of Youngstown, Ohio, the boy's ghost appears to Gracie Highsmith, the classmate who discovered his body. Adam McCormick, a dysfunctional child and one of Jamie's few friends in life, discovers that he can see the spirit. In short order, the adolescent-ghost relationship blossoms-as does Adam's relationship with Gracie-forming a bond among the three that they never shared when Jamie was alive. Traveling with Jamie into the "dead spaces" that hold wondrous and horrifying sights, Adam considers joining his friend. Gracie, realizing the danger of crossing into the spirit world, struggles to save Adam, who starts to lose touch with his physical surroundings.
Bantam. 320 pages. $12. ISBN: 0553384368

San Francisco Chronicle 4 of 5 Stars
"Barzak wisely discards the amateur detective cliches that coagulate around this kind of fantasy and concentrates on Adam's brave, interior struggle to find the value in his family, his first girlfriend, his hometown and himself. Smart and affecting, One for Sorrow is a first novel likely to haunt those who fall under its spell." Michael Berry

SciFi.com 4 of 5 Stars
"Barzak has made an impact with many stories in various venues, and he's part of a new generation of writers coming at the genre with an 'interstitial' or 'slipstream' perspective that blend the fantastical with the mimetic. So it's no surprise to find his debut novel well crafted, sensitive and literary, as well as suitably pulpy in places." Paul Di Filippo

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"One for Sorrow is ultimately a coming-of-age story, more melancholy than morbid and, by the end, profoundly hopeful. The writing is beautiful, honest and heartbreaking." Laura Whitcomb

Village Voice 3.5 of 5 Stars
"One for Sorrow, Christopher Barzak's lovely, melancholy, offbeat first novel, affectingly captures the emotional centrifuge that is adolescence, with sex and longing the fixed axes around which everything else spins. ... The novel has some problems with pacing, and in a few spots believable characterization are ground under the wheels of the plot machine." Elizabeth Hand

Critical Summary

Christopher Barzak's One for Sorrow is a rare thing indeed-a horror novel with heart. It's not often that such a book, particularly a debut (Barzak's reputation comes from his short fiction), is described as "lovely, melancholy" (Village Voice). But Barzak balances his story's supernatural aspects, which he delivers with simple assuredness, with the uncertainties and complexities of adolescence. One for Sorrow has been compared to The Catcher in the Rye and Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones. In the case of the latter, though, Barzak's book is quite a bit edgier and focuses little on the search for Jamie's killer. Instead, Barzak develops the adolescent relationships into "a coming-of-age story, more melancholy than morbid and, by the end, profoundly hopeful" (Washington Post).