Title: A Map of the Known World
Author: Lisa Sandell
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication Date: April 15, 2009
Cora Bradley dreams of escape. Ever since her reckless older brother, Nate, died in a car crash, Cora has felt suffocated by her small town and high school. She seeks solace in drawing beautiful maps, envisioning herself in exotic locales. When Cora begins to fall for Damian, the handsome, brooding boy who was in the car with Nate the night he died, she uncovers her brother's secret artistic life and realizes she had more in common with him than she ever imagined. This is the tale of one girl's journey through the redemptive powers of art, friendship, and love.
Cora has already lost her brother. After Nate's death, her life crumbles and falls apart. Her parents are distant and emotionally unstable. They're not the happy family they used to be; their dinners, full of life and sometimes fights in the past, are now overcome with the shrill, horrible, sound of silence. She dreams of getting away, she dreams of exploring her map of the known world. As she goes back to school, stares are pointed her way. She is known as 'the girl who has a dead brother'. But surprisingly, she fells a deep connection with Damien---an artist---who was Nate's best friend and the one who was with him in the car on the night he died. She starts to fall for him...Will she finally move on and open her heart?
A Map of the Known World is a canvas, drawn with lines of raw emotion, shaded with the lesson of love. Sandell introduces a cast of complicated, three-dimensional characters that ultimately, learns to move on with their lives. Cora is a passionate and complex protagonist that just wants to escape in a town that is suffocating her. She uses art to express herself and discovers how her brother was; without the façade of a rebellious kid, on his way to completely ruining his life. She sees that he was a true artist.
Art plays an important role in the novel. Sandell describes everything beautifully and vividly through a flawless lyrical prose. Reading A Map of the Known World is like discovering everything all over again...through different, grief-stricken eyes that have gone through so much. Cora and Damien are the two lights, illuminating the darkness that surrounded Nate's death; so full of hope. Helena is also a great character that guides Cora and eventually becomes a true, loyal friend.
The cover is so distinct. You won't understand what it's there for, at first. But as you uncover more and more about the enigma that is Nate, the significance of it is truly sentimental. It's a representation of the fact that Nate's life was important and his talent held lots of potential. The heart with junk is a representation that he will never be forgotten. It's just like him actually; at first glance, it's just junk, but as you really look inside, you find something completely beautiful; the unknown.
A Map of the Known World is a great book full of wonder, awe, and most importantly, friendship. Lisa Sandell creates benevolently complex characters, crafts a heart-breaking story, and delivers the message that you can learn to live again and open your heart. A+ =)
The Bottom Line: I loved it. It is beautiful. That's all I need to say.
My reaction/enjoyment: 10/10
Total Score: 98/100 (A+)