Author: Susan Vaught
Jersey Hatch is coming home. After a traumatic brain injury and more than a year in four different hospitals, he’s being cut loose to survive in the real world. It won’t be easy. He is no longer the brilliant, athletic boy he was before. His whole left side is well-nigh useless, and his patched-up brain now has as at least as many misfires as good connections. But he’s alive.
Now Jersey has to make his way through the wreckage of his life. With no memory of the year before the injury, he must figure out for himself why his former best friend hates him, how to make it through a normal schoolday, and what to do about his rapidly imploding family.
But most of all, Jersey Hatch has to figure out why he shot himself in the head.
Vaught brings her real-life experience as a neuropsychologist to this story of a boy attempting to reconstruct himself in the ruins of who he was before. But it’s not at all clinical or jargony. Vaught gives the neurology a miss and concentrates on an intimate recounting of Jersey’s struggles, physical, cognitive, and emotional. When he blurts out weird, fragmented words, the stream of conciousness that preceded it shows you how he got there and what he really means.
Personally I could have wished we’d gotten to know J.B. (Jersey Before) a little better. But the effect of the perfunctory explanation we do get is to underline the thundering pointlessness of his reasonings for what he did. At the same time, there is no moral, no preaching, just an honest exploration of redemption, forgiveness, and whether either is even possible.