Counting Back from Nine

Valerie Sherrard
Fitzhenry & Whiteside (2012)
ISBN 9781554552450

Reviewed by Leslie Granier for Reader Views (2/13)

“Counting Back from Nine” by Valerie Sherrard is about Laren Olivier, a high-school student whose life has recently undergone a major upheaval. She has a new boyfriend. Her three closest friends consider her an outcast for breaking the number one rule of friendship. An accident leads to the uncovering of a family secret which leaves her feeling empty and causes her to question the validity and reality of her own life. As Laren struggles to cope with the truth, she learns the importance of honesty, taking responsibility for her actions, and giving and receiving forgiveness.

“Counting Back from Nine” is written in a style known as free verse. It is presented in the form of a diary or journal in that it contains many short entries on a variety of everyday experiences and activities. This format is the perfect choice for this book for two reasons. First, Laren’s words and emotions come across as extremely heartfelt and genuine which led me to form a connection with her character very quickly. The second reason is that interweaving different story lines kept the plot fresh and allowed me to see how Laren’s attitudes and growth evolved. Although there were some topics and situations touched on in her writings that I would have liked to have explored further, the overall story was excellent.

As Laren transitions from her “old life” to her “new life,” it is interesting to see her growth process. Whether it was through her unusual sessions with the school psychologist or the humor and melodrama she adopted as coping mechanisms, I found myself rooting for her and her family to get through the rough times. It was especially poignant when she recalled her nine best memories and realized the common link among all of them.

This work of fiction, “Counting Back from Nine” by Valerie Sherrard, will appeal to girls in middle school and high school. It might also serve as a reminder to parents of girls in that age group about the kinds of situations kids deal with at this stage of life. The subject matter is serious but it is not presented in an over-the-top fashion. The essential message to gain from this book is that life is full of changes, both good and bad. It is the way in which people choose to respond to those changes that ultimately affects the course of their lives. 

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