Friday, May 4, 2018

Review of Alone Together by Sarah J. Donovan with Giveaway

Welcome to the blog tour for Alone Together by Sarah J. Donovan. I can pretty much guarantee you've not come across a novel like this one before. I have an excerpt for you to give a brief demonstration of what I mean, as well as my honest review of the book. There's a giveaway at the end of the post. You can also get more about the book if you follow the book tour.

Please note that affiliate links are present within this post. Should you make a purchase through one, I may earn a small commission to help support my websites at no additional cost to you. Also, I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Alone Together

Sadie Carter’s life is a mess, as wavy and tangled as her unruly hair. At 15, she is barely surviving the chaos of her large Catholic family. When one sister becomes pregnant and another is thrown out, her unemployed dad hides his depression, and her mom hides a secret. Sadie, the peacekeeper and rule-follower, has had enough. The empty refrigerator, years of hand-me-downs, and all the secrets have to stop. She longs for something more and plans her escape.

However, getting arrested was not her plan. Falling in love was not her plan. With the help of three mysterious strangers—a cop, a teacher, and a cute boy—maybe Sadie will find the strength to defy the rules and do the unexpected.

Told in verse, Sarah J. Donovan’s debut Alone Together has secrets, romance, struggle, sin, and redemption, all before Sadie blows out her 16 candles. It’s a courageously honest look at growing up in a big family.

Buy Links 
Amazon | Barnes & Noble

**My thoughts**
I was intrigued by the blurb of this story as far as the plot, but then knowing it was written in verse made it even more interesting. It really was a great way to get a deeper look into Sadie's pain and isolation. Her fractured bursts reflect her fractured emotions and thoughts as she tries to figure out who she is and her place in this family and in this world. 

Being part of such a large family has got to be difficult. There were only two of us, so I can't even begin to imagine what it would be like to share everything with that many other people. Adding to their chaos with 11 kids is their devout religion and essential poverty. Neither parent is happy, which trickles down to the kids and they are essentially ignored on some level. I hurt for Sadie while reading her entries, because her verse is just so painful and honest.

Not every large family has these kinds of demons, though the ones I know are now all grown and with kids of their own. I want this happy close-knit family and/or friends and support for Sadie and I think she wants it for herself. She just doesn't know how to find it. When she does finally find support from unexpected people, she doesn't know how to accept it. She is a beautiful, smart, and determined. She just needs someone to show her, but that's going to be a long road.

We get a glimpse into a year of her life, but it's only a glimpse. In a way, you almost want a bit more, but that would only come in the form of prose, which would detract from the emotion that you're experiencing. It wouldn't accurately reflect Sadie's state of mind. But I do want a glimpse into the next period of her life. It could even be another story set in verse. I think it could still be done and still reflect who she has become.

Read an excerpt and author's note:


I knew he’d come,

he’d be the one

because Mom’s always at church these days,

because he’s always in the garage these days.

I knew he’d be stoic

as he shook the hand

of the police commander—

a 6’ 6” Santa Claus

with a badge.

Nobody speaks

for what feels like


say a silent prayer— for what I don’t know.
God has more important things to worry about these days.

Dad leans back in his chair.

Crosses his legs.

I notice his overgrown toenails

stretching just beyond the sole

of his too-small flip flops.

Laces his hands behind his head.

I notice the stench of several shower-free days seeping into the silence.

Santa runs his hands through his silver hair, smoothes out his beard, blue eyes taking note of this

father-daughter dynamic.

“Today’s my last day,” says Santa.

“and it looks to me

like you could use

a break.”

I’m not sure

if he’s talking to me,

if he’s talking to Dad,

but my hands are praying

for some miracle.


tosses my violation in the trash.


stands to shake my hand.

My fingers are lost in his palm, and

I swear his blue eyes twinkle as he says, “Make better choices, Sadie.”

Christmas in August, I think.

A Christmas miracle, I think.

Until Dad finally breaks his silence to say, “Got a few bucks for gas?”

I’m not sure

if he’s talking to me,

if he’s talking to Santa,

but Santa takes out a ten

and hands it to Dad.


The only one of eleven

who sets the table every morning with cereal bowls and spoons,

who matches mounds of socks

without complaint or disdain,

who obeys every stand, kneel, sing in mass without sneaking out after communion.

The only one

who follows the rules,

who keeps the peace,

who has a chance at

joining the convent

to make her old Italian grandmother proud.


without proper punishment, without penance or consequence, without a way to assuage the conscience:

Destined-to-Go-to-Hell Sadie

(or at least confession),

which is okay because

I like boys too much to





No one is home.

No one.

#1 left at 18 to raise her own family—

done being a second mother to the brood.

#2 left at 18 to train for triathlons—

practically ran to Arizona the day he graduated.

#3 was kicked out at 18—

an unforgivable sin, but we don’t talk about her.

I don’t know them all that well.

They never come home.

#4 and #5 left to go to college—

have jobs on campus in the cafeteria,

wish I could see those boys washing dishes. #6 left at 18 for restaurant management training— 

didn’t have the smarts for college, wish I could see her running a crew. 

I don’t know them all that well.

They never come home.

#7 runs a drive-thru

passing the time with college classes until her boyfriend proposes.
#8 bakes croissants

saving every bit of dough

until she can plan her escape.

#10 runs with a gang

taking #11 to babysitting gigs

until she sneaks out to party.

I don’t know them all that well.

I was busy shoplifting.


Dad does not have a job.

Fired five years ago,


delivered packages

until he didn’t,

remodeled a neighbor’s basement,

which is still not finished,

designed a truck

that already exists.

So he is making a wooden canoe

in the garage

to one day drift on rivers of bliss, only
while he’s been at “work,”

one through six have already departed, and seven through eleven are






(or canoe).


I wrote Alone Together in verse because I see the stanzas and line breaks as representing Sadie’s fragmented thinking and limited perspective on the complexity of her family and purpose in life.

Like Sadie, I grew up in a big family. I can’t possibly know what it was like to be the oldest with so many younger siblings or to be the youngest with so many older siblings, so the white spaces on the page are for their stories. And the white spaces on these pages are for the verses of your life. I hope that you write them.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs helped me tell Sadie’s story. In his 1943 paper titled “A Theory of Human Motivation,” Abraham Maslow describes stages he believed necessary for human subsistence and fulfillment. Many people understand this to mean that in order to reach the higher stages like self-actualization, you must have your more basic needs satisfied, such as security, but I wanted to explore the resilience of teenagers who are working within and across all these stages every day. I wanted to show the struggle and beauty of one teen figuring out how to be and to become while she was hungry, while she was finding love and belonging, while she was discovering her path.

As an adult, I am still figuring out how to take care of myself and how to be a part of this complex world we live in. But what I do know is that I need others to help me. I am grateful for the people who love my family and grateful for the people who love me, who taught me how to love and be loved. This book would not exist without all of them.

About Sarah J. Donovan

Sarah J. Donovan is the author of Alone Together and Genocide Literature in Middle and Secondary Classrooms. A junior high English teacher by day and college education professor by night, she spends every other moment reading young adult novels and writing. She lives with her husband in Downers Grove, Illinois in a condo so she can write instead of mowing the lawn or shoveling snow. When she is not teaching, reading, or writing, she can be found playing sand volleyball with amazing Chicagoland women. (Yes, even in the winters.)You can see all her “shelfies”on Instagram @donovan_sd or tweet @MrsSJDonovan.

Author Links:


Win a class set of Alone Together for your local high school: 

Blog Tour Organized by:

No comments:

Post a Comment