Title: A Map of the Known World
Author: Lisa Ann Sandell
Release Date: April 15, 2009
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Cora’s life as she knew it ended the day her brother, Nate, was killed in a car accident. Her once loving family completely shut down. While once they enjoyed spending time together (at least Cora and her parents did – Nate had become increasingly bitter and rebellious prior to his death), they no longer know how to function as a family. Cora’s father spends all his time in the basement alone, while Cora’s mother won’t let Cora out of her sight. She’s not allowed to be out after dark, even with other parents around. Cora wants to come to terms with her brother’s death, but can’t while her mother’s paranoia is suffocating her. She seeks solace in her artwork and through Nate’s friend Damian, begins to understand her complicated and troubled brother through ways she never dreamed of while he was alive.
A Map of the Known World has a lot of strong points, not the least of which are the main characters, Cora and Damian. They are incredibly well developed and intricately crafted, to the point where they seem like real people. They are both damaged and fragile, though they express their insecurities in different ways. They don’t know how to heal after Nate’s death so they reach out to one another.
I absolutely loved the role of artwork in this novel. Lisa Ann Sandell describes the art so vividly, so that the reader can picture it in their mind. Cora and Damian both use their artwork to deal with their emotions. Cora deals with her frustration with her parents, her difficulties at school, and her sadness at Nate’s death through her art. She also gets to know Nate and understand him a little better through his artwork, art that she never even knew he was making while he was alive.
The map metaphor in A Map of the Known World was also very interesting. The reader could feel Cora’s desperation, her need to travel. Her mom trapped her inside the house, but Cora was yearning to break free. She wanted to live for both herself and Nate.
A Map of the Known World was a thoroughly enjoyable YA read. It captures the reader’s emotions perfectly, as they race through the pages to discover what happens to Cora and whether she finally comes to terms with Nate’s death. It’s a great book that I highly recommend to any fans of teen fiction.