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A Psalm for Lost Girls

Cover of A Psalm for Lost Girls

A Psalm for Lost Girls

I'll Give You the Sun meets True Detective in this brilliant YA debut about saints, sisters, and learning to let go.
Tess da Costa is a saint—a hand-to-god, miracle-producing saint. At least that's what the people in her hometown of New Avon, Massachusetts, seem to believe. And when Tess suddenly and tragically passes away, her small city begins feverishly petitioning the Pope to make Tess's sainthood official. Tess's mother is ecstatic over the fervor, while her sister Callie, the one who knew Tess best, is disgusted—overcome with the feeling that her sister is being stolen from her all over again.

The fervor for Tess's sainthood only grows when Ana Langone, a local girl who's been missing for six months, is found alive at the foot of one of Tess's shrines. It's the final straw for Callie. With the help of Tess's secret boyfriend Danny, Callie's determined to prove that Tess was something far more important than a saint; she was her sister, her best friend and a girl in love with a boy. But Callie's investigation uncovers much more than she bargained for—a hidden diary, old family secrets, and even the disturbing truth behind Ana's kidnapping. Told in alternating perspectives, A Psalm for Lost Girls is at once funny, creepy and soulful—an impressive debut from a rising literary star.
From the Hardcover edition.
I'll Give You the Sun meets True Detective in this brilliant YA debut about saints, sisters, and learning to let go.
Tess da Costa is a saint—a hand-to-god, miracle-producing saint. At least that's what the people in her hometown of New Avon, Massachusetts, seem to believe. And when Tess suddenly and tragically passes away, her small city begins feverishly petitioning the Pope to make Tess's sainthood official. Tess's mother is ecstatic over the fervor, while her sister Callie, the one who knew Tess best, is disgusted—overcome with the feeling that her sister is being stolen from her all over again.

The fervor for Tess's sainthood only grows when Ana Langone, a local girl who's been missing for six months, is found alive at the foot of one of Tess's shrines. It's the final straw for Callie. With the help of Tess's secret boyfriend Danny, Callie's determined to prove that Tess was something far more important than a saint; she was her sister, her best friend and a girl in love with a boy. But Callie's investigation uncovers much more than she bargained for—a hidden diary, old family secrets, and even the disturbing truth behind Ana's kidnapping. Told in alternating perspectives, A Psalm for Lost Girls is at once funny, creepy and soulful—an impressive debut from a rising literary star.
From the Hardcover edition.
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  • From the book 1.

    I go to all the services at first. I listen to grandmothers, shopkeepers, and schoolkids testify. I stand by my smiling, weeping mother to accept the hugs and offerings. Watch an entire city light candles beneath your giant portrait. I let them do this.

    To you, my sister.

    But it's been a long, hot summer, and I don't know how much more I can take. My fibers are stretched thin, my insides shredded. Everyone looks at me, impatient, like I should be okay by now, damage contained. Four months have passed since early April. That's almost eighteen weeks since the ambulance, yellow lights whirling, took you away. One hundred and twenty- four days of me without you. And either they don't understand grief or I'm more screwed up than we thought, Tess, because somehow each day bites deeper than the one before.

    The last thing you said to me was, "Where's the toothpaste?"

    And the thing before that? Those words I said before I slammed the door, an extra- loud snap to make you flinch (Did you flinch, Tess?), well, those are the ones I prefer to forget.

    I suppose that's the problem with last words. You don't realize what they'll be until it's too late.

    Instead, I like to replay a different conversation, something you told me a long time ago. Would you remember it now? It had been another ugly day at school, the sort that was common back then. I was at the top of my class in those days, a fact that made nobody happy. You sat me on your bed and told it to me straight: "Other kids will bring you down, Callie. It's the way things go. We're lucky, though. We don't need them because we've got each other. Sisters are forever."

    The way you said it, I knew it was true: we'd stick together, best of friends, till the very end.

    Of course, we didn't know then how it would happen — that first incident two years ago, June, a voice that came out of nowhere, telling you things we couldn't explain. Strange messages that got surprised looks as soon as you said them aloud. People started coming to you, seeking answers and healing. Their stories soon piled one upon the next: a woman cured of cancer, a family reunited, a bullet lodged safely in a rib. Anywhere else these things would've been chalked up to luck, Tess. To fate. To good doctors, maybe, or poor aim. But the people of New Avon had another explanation . . . you.

    The first time they called you a saint, we looked at each other, shook our heads, and asked, really?

    I mean, really?

    "Yes, really," they said, nodding brightly. (Or creepily, depending on your point of view.)

    You and I exchanged another glance. Creepy, we decided. Definitely creepy.

    It only got weirder. During your sophomore year, believers poured from every crack and crevice of this city, drawn to you like cockroaches to a sticky feast. It wasn't just the Portuguese grandmas and Jesus freaks either. There were old people, young people, smart people, dumb people. Okay, if we're being honest, mostly dumb people. Really dumb. As in, If I rub this doorknob that she touches every day, will God take away all my troubles and make me rich and beautiful? Uh, let's see. I'm going to go with a big fat no on that one. The people of New Avon are as cash- strapped and ugly as ever, Tess. A truly pitiful bunch. All that's changed is our doorknob, which has acquired an impressive shine.

    "I don't know why they think I can help," you told me one night after the crowds left.

    "Maybe it's like when you're a little kid and you wish on a star," I said. "Maybe they just want to believe in something."

    You...
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from January 9, 2017
    Callie da Costa is 16 when her older sister, Tess, whom many believe channels God’s divine will, dies from an untreated heart defect. After a missing six-year-old, Ana Langone, reappears at one of Tess’s shrines and other reports of Tess’s miracles pour in, Callie’s mother is set on having Tess named a saint. Determined to stop the petition for sainthood and debunk the miracle of Ana’s safe return, Callie teams up with Danny, an old friend who has a complicated relationship with both sisters. Callie’s first-person chapters alternate with excerpts from Tess’s journals, weaving Tess’s final thoughts and experiences with those of Callie in the months after Tess’s death. Through these two perspectives—alleged saint and grieving sister—debut author Bayerl unspools a gripping story of loss and grace. The search for Ana’s abductor and the eventual revelations surrounding her kidnapping form a poignant parallel to Tess and Callie’s relationship, deftly underlining the ways in which grief can warp reality and encourage self-destruction. Richly and evocatively written, Bayerl’s story is ideal for fans of Jandy Nelson and Melina Marchetta. Ages 12–up. Agent: Erin Harris, Folio Literary Management.

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    Penguin Young Readers Group
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A Psalm for Lost Girls
A Psalm for Lost Girls
Katie Bayerl
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