Nancy Werlin

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Are You Alone on Purpose?

Werlin, Nancy

Last Updated: Feb-19-1998
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults


Allison Shandling is a bright 14-year-old with an autistic twin brother, Adam. She has spent her life being the "good" child, accommodating to her brother's idiosyncratic behavior, learning to weather public curiosity, support her parents, and not cause them further anxiety.

When her parents decide to reconnect with a religious community, she finds that one of the school bullies is the rabbi's son, Harry. He teases her mercilessly about her brother, especially after his father, the rabbi, takes Adam under his wing and tutors him for his bar mitzvah. When Harry is paralyzed from the waist down in a sporting accident he retreats even further into bitterness, but Allison finds herself drawn to him nevertheless.

Against her own "better judgment," she pursues a friendship with Harry, learns that the source of much of his anger lies in the death of his mother and his father's distance, and that the two of them share a sense of being marginalized in families where other critical needs have overshadowed their own very ordinary needs. Eventually friendship blossoms into a first romance as well as inciting both to initiate new conversations with their parents.

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