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Monday, May 23, 2022

As anyone with a sibling knows, from an early age we are constantly told to get along with and love him or her. Even when it seems unfair or they’ve done something super annoying like turning the XBOX off in the middle of a new level or accusing you of something you haven’t done (or maybe you have but you’re trying to cover it up). We are always told to love our siblings unconditionally. But what happens if you don’t? Miriam Gershow explores this in “The Local News.”

Lydia Pasternak is a typical teenage girl. At fifteen she is trying to navigate high school with her best friend while trying to adjust to her older brother’s transformation from ugly duckling to beautiful swan. Danny Pasternak used to be the little kid that everyone bullied. When the Pasternak family moves one summer when Lydia is twelve and Daniel is fifteen, Daniel uses this new opportunity to change himself. He spends the summer working out and tries out for the football team. He starts at a new high school as a completely different person. No longer is he the odd kid that everyone picked on; he is now the stereotypical jock that picks on others. Danny revels in his new-found popularity and power and his relationship with his little sister changes.

Lydia is quieter than Danny, more withdrawn and much smarter. But she doesn’t understand the new changes in Danny and grows to dislike him; especially when he treats her badly at every opportunity. As the older sibling I never experienced this but it is possible anyone who has an older sibling can understand this. An older brother or sister changes as they explore high school first and change from a little kid to a young adult. It can be confusing and emotional. Most siblings work it out as they grow older. Lydia and Danny never did. Why? Danny disappears.

On the way home from a basketball game one evening, Danny disappears and throws the local community into turmoil. The local news is saturated with the story, searches are held every week and Lydia’s world changes forever. The weeks go by and the search is called off. No leads surface, no evidence can be found. It’s as if Danny just disappeared into thin air. Lydia’s parents shut down. Danny was the apple of their eye, the star athlete, the big shot and his disappearance is devastating to them. Lydia’s mother spends all of her time crying and organizing searches and her father is an emotional zombie. They essentially forget that they still have another child that needs to be nurtured.

Lydia struggles to navigate her thoughts and feelings. She doesn’t admit to anyone that she didn’t actually like her brother. She is constantly surrounded by reminders of him as the community fixates on his disappearance. 

The story ends with Lydia attending her high school’s ten-year reunion. It’s both fascinating and sad that Lydia’s life seems to have been shaped so absolutely by Danny’s disappearance. She is always remembered by her peers as Danny’s sister and she never seems to be able to escape her own mind.

I would recommend this book because it is different from the typical coming-of-age story. Lydia’s transition to high school is defined by her brother and her transition to adulthood is defined by his disappearance. The book explores how different people cope with grief. It shows that your life can be what you make of it and how one event can shape your life. 

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