The conflicted emotions are portrayed with a rawness that forces the reader to think, “What if?” the novel also succeeds in presenting the situation in a judgment-free manner. There is no editorializing on Stinson’s part, and the story’s conclusion is left up in the air, allowing readers to form their own opinions of what should happen next.
In a YA landscape littered with dystopia, urban fantasy, and romantic fiction Stinson offers an important wake-up call to young readers that there is more to life, and that it’s not always easy.
Quill & Quire, December 2012
This is such an important book – one that belongs in school libraries and classrooms. It is an intense subject matter but written in a comfortable, pleasantly simplistic style that makes it perfectly suitable for middle graders and younger teens. There are things in this book that can be applied to more than a sibling with disabilities…
A Belle’s Tales, April 2017
To her list of already impressive accomplishments, Kathy Stinson adds the distinction of taking on one of the most controversial social issues of our time—and tackling it in a novel published for a young adult audience. Her latest book, What Happened to Ivy, provides a thoughtful, nuanced exploration of mercy killing for readers aged 14 through 17.
For such a little book, this novel really tackles a big topic, and I admire how sensitive and honest Kathy Stinson‘s writing is. Although I have never lived with mentally challenged children or adults, I have worked with some, in group home settings. Reading this book brought back many memories of those children, and I feel the author created very authentic characters. I appreciated David’s honesty in explaining how frustrating it was to live with Ivy at times.
The ending is perfect. It’s just real life. No tidy resolution, and lots to keep thinking about.
What is most refreshing about this novel is its honesty. So many novels with young protagonists shy away from giving characters real-life problems to negotiate. Stinson, however, rolls up her sleeves and really describes what it’s like to cope with a family member’s disability. She does this with great sensitivity, carefully yet frankly discussing the reality of day-to-day life. David’s love of his sister is subject to human failings, and he expresses that exasperation by indulging in self-pity: “So, big deal Dad was actually showing an interest in what I was doing. So, big deal it didn’t last because Ivy needed something. When doesn’t she need something? When isn’t she messing up something?” Impatient thoughts like these are often followed by feelings of guilt, which David feels in equal or greater measure. Stinson’s candor may earn her a few new readers, as according to the US Census, one in twelve children has a physical or mental disability.
While What Happened to Ivy will undoubtedly resonate with families coping with the demands of special needs children, it can also be enjoyed for the well-wrought story that it is. Stinson has created a very relatable protagonist in David. His unfiltered thoughts and feelings ring true, making his walk through the aftermath of his sister’s death a worthwhile trip to take.
NewPages Book Reviews
What Happened to Ivy will both make you cry and question your own feelings when it comes to the meaning of mercy. I recommend this smart novel to older readers looking for a book that will making them think about what it’s really like to have friends, family and people to love.
At 146 pages, What Happened to Ivy is relatively short for a young adult novel and I suspect that it’s because Kathy Stinson does not feel the need to wrap the story in layers upon layers of descriptive text and subplots to enhance the primary storyline. Its bare bones are strong enough to support a complex examination of humanity and the connections that are strained when a much-loved child with physical challenges dies. Without criticizing or defending any attitudes, Kathy Stinson allows compassion to steer the questions and the telling of What Happened to Ivy.
CanLit for LittleCanadians
This book was so powerful. It made me realise how little I know about people who are mentally challenged, and how very little the world knows about what their families do for them on a daily basis. It brought up so many questions and really showcased the complexities of this world.
I wish we had more books like this one. It really showed how complex these situations are and made me really take a look at my own misconceptions.
I really cannot say enough positive things about this story. It’s a very important one. And I hope that many more people will read it.
One A Day Y.A.
David’s brief, but intense, story will have you on the edge of your seat. My only criticism was that is was too short — it left me wanting more!
The Record, August 9, 2013