March 05, 2019

What We Buried

Written by Kate A. Boorman
Henry Holt and Company
320 pp.
Ages 14-18
February 2019

You created your reality; live with it. (pg. 260)

But the realities that have been created for eighteen-year-old Jory Brewer and his sixteen-year-old sister Lavinia (Liv) are only minimally their own doing. Jory, born with Moebius syndrome, has several paralyzed craniofacial nerves which affect his appearance, his speech and his eating. He may choose to say very little and be more socially withdrawn but how others respond to him is not on him. He'd had one corrective surgery as a child and doctors had recommended further intervention but his parents didn't think it was a good investment. On the other hand, what they thought was a good investment was putting Liv on the child beauty pageant circuit, including a stint on Darling Divas, the reality TV show about pageants and their contestants. Unfortunately, in the aftermath of that career, Liv is now suing her parents for "irreparable and lasting harm." (pg. 11)

On the day of the trial, their parents disappear from the courthouse. Liv returns to the house, for the first time in months, ostensibly to help Jory but more to learn what has happened to their parents whom she believes Jory is helping. When she thinks she knows where they've gone, the two siblings head out to an old cabin their mother had inherited and which their father had always wanted to sell. But in a chilling road trip during which the two are haunted by fleeting visions, possible déjà vu, recurrent memories and danger, Liv and Jory transform from squabbling sibs to something unexpected.
And there it was–an uncanny sense of temporality. Like my reaction to what was happening–the focus of my attention–was a better measure of time than the minutes clicking over on the digital clock.  Everything was beginning to feel malleable and unfixed, like if I looked hard enough at the road illuminated by our headlights, I'd see beyond it, or behind it, or something. (pg. 103)
Kate A. Boorman has written a thriller that is equal parts plot and character in which both are significant and extraordinary. As the reader struggles to sort out the plot including what happened to the teens' parents, how the repeating news story on the radio is important, and what is real and either supernatural or illusion, Jory and Liv are exploring who they were, who they are and who they want to be.
Book jacket of What We Buried by Kate A. Boorman
The front cover of What We Buried may look like the story is about Liv and her perceptions but the back cover reveals that Jory's perspective is just as important. It's the way the two siblings see things about themselves, each other, their parents and the outside world and how it sees them that makes What We Buried intense and emotional.
You know the saying "Seeing is believing"? It's a problem, when you think about it. I mean, it's reasonable for people to want proof before they accept something they've been told. I do. I'm a fan of logic and demonstrable facts. But the idea inherent: that you can believe what you see? That's majorly flawed, because people usually have no idea what they're looking at. It's why people think my sister is a lovely, tragic victim. It's why they so often assume I can't tie my own shoes. (pg. 6)
The contrast of reality and illusion is a complex one in What We Buried and that's because Kate A. Boorman draws us in but doesn't join us for the journey. It's up to the reader to determine what might be real and what might be memory or what might be something else entirely. See if you can see beyond the masks of Liv's beauty and Jory's disorder and look deeper into their stories to find what may be buried, both literally and figuratively.

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