Sue Ellen Bridgers Dick Abrahamson - Essay

Dick Abrahamson

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Home Before Dark and All Together Now quickly established Bridgers' reputation in the YA field and Notes for Another Life puts her at the head of the pack. In this latest novel, Bridgers introduces us to thirteen-year-old Wren and her older brother, Kevin. They live with their grandparents because their father is in and out of the state mental hospital. Their mother, after years of living with the ups and downs of a mentally ill husband, has chosen a career of high fashion and city life over Wren and Kevin.

Once again it is Bridgers' fine sense of characterization that makes her book work so well. The reader watches Kevin and Wren struggle with developmental tasks made more complicated by mental illness in the family and absent parents.

The author beautifully balances the father's retreat from reality with what appears to be a similar journey by Kevin. Kevin's moodiness, his lack of friends, and his perceived rejection by his mother and his girlfriend push him to a suicide attempt. The family comes together to help Kevin and to deal, this time successfully, with yet another tragedy.

Running through this finely crafted novel is the theme of the soothing power of music, which is an ointment to ease the pain, an escape, and an old friend to lean on for help and strength. It is music that provides notes for another life. Because Notes is not as demanding as [Judith Guest's] Ordinary People nor as simplistic as [John Neufeld's] Lisa, Bright and Dark, this fine novel will get a bigger share of teenage readers.

Dick Abrahamson, in his review of "Notes for Another Life" (copyright © 1981 by the National Council of Teachers of English; reprinted by permission of the publisher), in English Journal, Vol. 70, No. 5, September, 1981, p. 75.