Cover image for Little universes
Title:
Little universes
ISBN:
9781250222794
Edition:
1st ed.
Physical Description:
474 pages ; 22 cm.
Geographic Term:
Summary:
When a tsunami strikes the island where their parents are vacationing, it soon becomes clear that their mom and dad are never coming home. Forced to move to Boston from sunny California for the rest of their senior year, each girl struggles with secrets their parents' death has brought to light, and with their uncertainty about the future. Instead of bringing them closer, it feels like the wave has torn the sisters apart. Hannah is a secret poet who wants to be seen, but only knows how to hide. The pain pills she stole from her dead father hurl her onto the shores of an addiction she can't shake and a dealer who turns her heart upside down. When it's clear Hannah's drowning, Mae, a budding astronaut suddenly launched into an existential crisis, and unexpected love, must choose between herself and the only family she has left.
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Summary

Summary

Heather Demetrios's Little Universes is a book about the powerful bond between sisters, the kinds of love that never die, and the journey we all must make through the baffling cruelty and unexpected beauty of human life in an incomprehensible universe.

One wave: that's all it takes for the rest of Mae and Hannah Winters' lives to change.

When a tsunami strikes the island where their parents are vacationing, it soon becomes clear that their mom and dad are never coming home. Forced to move to Boston from sunny California for the rest of their senior year, each girl struggles with secrets their parents' death has brought to light, and with their uncertainty about the future. Instead of bringing them closer, it feels like the wave has torn the sisters apart.

Hannah is a secret poet who wants to be seen, but only knows how to hide. The pain pills she stole from her dead father hurl her onto the shores of an addiction she can't shake and a dealer who turns her heart upside down. When it's clear Hannah's drowning, Mae, a budding astronaut suddenly launched into an existential crisis--and unexpected love--must choose between herself and the only family she has left.


Author Notes

Heather Demetrios is a critically acclaimed author and writing coach. Her novels include I'll Meet You There, Bad Romance, and Exquisite Captive. She is the recipient of the PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award for her debut novel, Something Real , which is not at all impressive to her cat or imaginary friends.


Reviews 4

School Library Journal Review

Gr 9 Up--When high school senior Mae Winters makes a list of the things that the ocean is full of after a tsunami, including metal, pieces of buildings, palm trees, and bathing suit tops, she adds one item of her own: "my parents." A tsunami has just destroyed the southern coast of Malaysia, where Mom and Dad went on vacation--and died. By killing off their parents before the story begins, Demetrios has created an "event horizon" for sisters Mae and Hannah--an inexplicable occurrence that they nonetheless must try to get past. Adopted Mae is the brilliant hope of the family, while Hannah, aptly nicknamed Nah, gets by with a cynical sense of humor that barely conceals her clinical depression. But Mae's reliance on data--like her list--doesn't begin to touch her grief; it's Hannah who can cry, and whose near-death experience with drugs following the tragedy forces her to find her own reason to live. When a relative attempts to move the girls to a new city to make a fresh start, Hannah's inner guru observes, "Cheer laced with guilt. Boy do I know that sound." Nothing fake for this girl. VERDICT This book attempts to scale too many dysfunctional mountains--but as a story of two sisters who struggle, in the aftermath of tragedy, to find the link between family and independence, it's quite strong. For teens seeking realistic family stories.--Georgia Christgau, LaGuardia Community College, Long Island City, NY


Publisher's Weekly Review

Seventeen-year-old sisters Mae and Hannah narrate the tumultuous year following their parents' death by tsunami in this overlong tale of sisterhood and survival by Demetrios (Bad Romance). Both sisters enter into the event with existing trauma: Mae was adopted as a three-year old "after my biological mother officially chose drugs over me," while Hannah struggles with an opiate pill addiction and unresolved grief over an abortion. Uprooted from California to an aunt and uncle's Boston home, they resume familiar patterns, with poetic, tarot-card-loving Hannah using and contemplating suicide, and analytical, aspiring astronaut Mae willing to sacrifice her dreams to help her sister. Both wrestle with feelings of worthlessness: Hannah thinks she's a "loser piece-of-shit junkie," while Mae's fear of abandonment ("Everyone I love leaves me") leads her to control rather than trust. While the sisters' extensive self-analysis and parallel romantic problems (each finds a doting potential boyfriend whom they hold at arm's length) can feel repetitious, Demetrios skillfully illustrates the pain of addiction and challenge of recovery for a whole family, as well as the emotional turmoil that follows a sudden death. Ages 14--up. Agent: Jess Regel, Foundry Literary + Media. (Apr.)


Kirkus Review

Hannah and Mae Winters' comfortable lives plunge into chaos in the aftermath of the tsunami in Malaysia that kills their parents while they are on vacation. As high school seniors the sisters are forced to start their lives over in Boston with their maternal Aunt Nora, leaving behind their life in LA. A recovering addict, Hannah finds herself succumbing to pills while Mae, who is adopted, struggles to come to terms with not knowing her ethnic heritage in a family where their maternal Greek heritage is a critical part of their identity. After moving to Boston, Hannah finds comfort in classmate Drew Nolan while Mae meets MIT student Ben Tamura, who shares her passion for science. The story is narrated from the perspectives of both Hannah and Mae. Demetrios (Bad Romance, 2018, etc.) immerses the reader in Mae's and Hannah's worlds with aplomb and clarity, astutely capturing the precariousness of addiction and the spiral journey of recovery. Heavy themes--abortion, mental health, and more--are handled with care and candor. Readers will find themselves pulled into the world of each sister and her grief, witnessing the gutting effects of addiction and depression. Demetrios has struck a fine balance between science and New Age faith, hopelessness and hope, in her respectful portrayal of the sisters' differences. Most major characters are white; Ben is Japanese American. An unflinching, devastating, and compelling portrayal of life after insurmountable loss. (Fiction. 16-adult) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Booklist Review

Hannah and her adoptive sister, Mae, are opposite but symbiotic. When tragedy takes their parents in their senior year, the girls' lives are battered by chaos. Before they can grieve fully, they are uprooted from the California coast to Boston, and despite having a devoted family, unresolved issues travel with them. Hannah is addicted to pain pills, a habit acquired after having an abortion. Mae believes she's the only person responsible for her sister's welfare, a role that could be to the detriment of her own dreams. Secrets revealed after their parents' deaths create additional obstacles to healing, forcing both girls to struggle with an unsure future. Yet, as events try to pull them apart, they fight to reconnect. Told via alternating first-person POVs, Hannah's and Mae's lives are viewed through different -lenses--Hannah's is emotional and poetic, while Mae's is focused and scientific. Exploring love and rejection, rape and abortion, death and grief, and addiction and sobriety in a world that disappoints, perplexes, and astonishes, this is a gripping story for more mature readers. Demetrios (Dear Heartbreak, 2018) utilizes an introspective narrative with sparse dialogue to offer thoughtful reflections on questionable relationships, raw emotions, and internal stresses, all while illustrating that blood ties aren't necessary for deep, enduring sisterhood.