A heartbreaking yet uplifting story of grief about a boy who has lost everything, but finds new hope drawing in the shadows of a hospital. Features a thirty-two-page graphic novel.
Andrew Brawley was supposed to die that night, just like the rest of his family.
Now he lives in the hospital, serving food in the cafeteria, hanging out with the nurses, sleeping in a forgotten supply closet. Drew blends in to near invisibility, hiding from his past, his guilt, and those who are trying to find him. His only solace is in the world of the superhero he’s created—Patient F.
Then, one night, Rusty is wheeled into the ER, half his body burned by hateful classmates. Rusty’s agony calls out to Drew like a beacon, pulling them both together though all their pain and grief. In Rusty, Drew sees hope, happiness, and a future for both of them. A future outside of the hospital, and away from their pasts.
But to save Rusty, Drew will have to confront Death, and life will have to get worse before it gets better. And by telling the truth about who he really is, Drew risks destroying any chance of a future.
About the Author
Shaun David Hutchinson is the author of numerous books for young adults, including The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried, The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza, At the Edge of the Universe, and We Are the Ants. He also edited the anthologies Violent Ends and Feral Youth and wrote the memoir Brave Face, which chronicles his struggles with depression and coming out during his teenage years. He lives in Seattle, where he enjoys drinking coffee, yelling at the TV, and eating cake. Visit him at ShaunDavidHutchinson.com or on Twitter @ShaunieDarko.
Read an Excerpt
Five Stages of Andrew Brawley
The boy is on fire.
EMTs wheel him into Roanoke General’s sterile emergency room. He screams and writhes on the gurney as though the fire that burned his skin away burns still, flaring deep within his bones, where the paramedics and doctors and nurses crowding around him, working desperately, will never be able to extinguish it.
The boy looks my age, seventeen. His hair, where it isn’t singed, is the color of autumn leaves. The kind of leaves I used to rake into piles with my dad and take running jumps into.
I can’t see the boy’s eyes from where I’m hiding, but his voice is a chain. It grates as agony drags it out of his throat. The skin on his legs and part of his chest is charred black.
The scent of burning lingers in my nose, and even as bile rises into the back of my throat, I can’t help thinking of all the times I barbecued with my family during the summer. Mom would squirrel away extra food in the back of the fridge because Dad always burned the chicken.
It’s late, and I should be gone, but I can’t take my eyes off the boy. I’m a prisoner of his animal howls. There is nowhere in this hospital that I could hide to escape his screams.
So I stay. And watch. And listen.
A girl runs in, arms windmilling about. Screaming words that I barely hear over the sound of my own heart thudding. “. . . in the pool . . . party . . . he was yelling . . .” The paramedics restrain the girl, and she shrinks. She’s a broken mirror. The pieces are just reflected bits of us: our anger, our horror, our fear, borrowed and returned. She can keep mine.
I focus on the boy.
The biggest concern is protecting his airway. I know that. It’s basic stuff. If the boy breathed the fire, it might not matter what his skin looks like. That his screams reach every corner of Roanoke’s claustrophobic emergency room is a good thing. When he stops screaming is when I’ll worry.
The doctors and nurses huddle, discussing their plan of attack, maybe; praying, maybe. Mourning, maybe. The boy needs miracles. The storybook-magic kind.
One of the doctors—an octopus of a woman working with all eight arms simultaneously—cuts away the ruined bits of clothing and peels them back like ragged strips of wallpaper. The boy moans.
I turn away. I’m not prepared for this. I only came to the ER to say hi to the nurses and see if anyone had blown off a finger while lighting fireworks. Today being the Fourth of July made my chances of seeing a grisly Roman candle accident pretty good.
But this is bad. This is so much like that night.
The small emergency room can hardly contain all the people crowded in it. The walls are white. The floors are white. The drapes that cordon off the exam rooms are eggshell, except for one space reserved for small children. That curtain is decorated with tiny faded yellow ducks. The nurse’s station is a stumbling block perched in the middle of the ER, and all the doctors and nurses are forced to dance around it. The nurses complain, but it’s a fixed point in space. Immovable.
My calves ache from crouching, and my shoulders are stiff. I fear that if I move, I’ll be seen, and tonight I want to remain invisible. The boy on fire needs me to stay. He needs me to be witness to his pain. It’s an odd thought to have, but I’m growing used to the odd thoughts that invade my brain these days. Every day.
Like how the ER smells remind me of an Italian grinder. The kind that’s smothered in vinegar and mayo and too much oregano. Usually the emergency room is a stew of bleach and blood and whatever rotten odors the patients carry in with them. But not tonight. The boy isn’t just burned. He’s cooked.
I turn back to the scene, hoping that they’ve finished peeling him. He moves less than before. He cries less. Maybe the doctors gave him something for the pain. Except he and I know that some pain burrows so deep, no narcotic can ever soothe it. It’s etched on your bones. It hides in your marrow, like cancer. If the boy survives, this pain is a memory he won’t want.
I’ll remember it for him.
Steven startles me from behind. “Drew? What’re you doing here?” Steven is twiggy, with a bulbous nose and a hairline that he left in high school, along with the rest of his good looks.
“Hey, Steven,” I say, playing it nonchalant. I stand up slowly, not taking my eyes off the burning boy, and hide my anxiety behind a lopsided grin. “I was on my way home, and I thought I’d stop by and say hi.”
“Bad time, kiddo.” He’s cradling an armful of sterile gauze and looking where I’m looking. The boy screams. Steven flinches. Sometimes I think he’s too sensitive to be a nurse.
I nod my head absently, letting Steven’s words settle into my ears but not really hearing them. I try to reply, but the fire in the boy’s screams sucks all the oxygen from the room.
Steven glances at the bandages in his hands and says, “I should go.”
“Me too,” I say. “I’m working breakfast tomorrow. See you then?”
“Sure.” Steven’s blue eyes light up at the mention of food. “Tell Arnold not to undercook the eggs. Runny eggs are disgusting.”
The boy screeches, and Steven goes. He walks apologetically and disappears into the tumor of people surrounding the boy.
I stay. The doctors and nurses press bandages to seared skin. After his airway, fighting infection is their next priority. I can’t tell how much of the boy’s body is burned, but it’s enough. Soon they’ll wheel him to another part of the hospital. I might never see him again. I don’t even know his name.
But I have to go. Death will appear soon, as she always does. She might take the boy, she might not, but I can’t be around when she comes. She arrived late before and didn’t get me. But she won’t make the same mistake twice, and I’m not yet ready to leave.
No one sees me take off. I navigate the hospital on autopilot. There are doors through which only hospital workers are allowed to pass, but I make my way invisibly. I imagine I can’t be seen, and I am not seen. The hospital walls have no memory. They would crumble under the weight of so much suffering. It’s better that they forget.
On the first floor, far past the surgical ward, is a section of the hospital abandoned in the middle of renovations, left to decay when the economy collapsed and the money ran out. Naked beams and partially erected drywall rot like forgotten bones. Dust and neglect fill the air. No one comes here except me. No one even remembers it exists.
I grab the flashlight that I leave by the door. It casts a shallow sphere of illumination. Enough to drive the shadows back, but not enough to banish them completely. Sometimes I try to trick myself, imagining that I’m at my old house in my old bed and that the others are asleep in their bedrooms, dreaming sweetly. But it’s an illusion that rarely lasts long.
This is home now.
I trudge to the farthest corner, to the only room that’s even remotely finished. It has four walls and a knobless door that I tape shut. Most nights it feels like a prison.
My bed against the far wall is a pile of lumpy, stained sheets that embraces me with all the comfort of a sack full of rocks. My pillow is a laundry bag stuffed with discarded scrubs.
I pop in my earbuds and play some music. It’s in Spanish, so I don’t understand the words, but the lazy, metallic twangs of the guitar are soothing. The sounds of the hospital can reach me even here, and I can’t sleep with the gasping and wheezing all around me, with the wraiths that haunt the halls, chattering through the night like a million cicadas.
Today was long, and I’m tired. It’s barely eight in the evening, but I can’t keep my lids from sliding closed. More often it’s the reverse, and I stay awake all night, begging for sleep to take me.
Exhaustion is a relief.
Before I lie back and let reality slip away, I retrieve a small tin from beneath my pillow. It’s the color of sun-kissed skin and weighs less than it should. I dig my fingers around the edges and remove the lid.
The first thing that hits me is the rich scent of leather. Old leather. Leather that was loved. I open the faded brown wallet and linger over the picture in the plastic window. Then I fold it closed and put it beside me. Scattered at the bottom of the tin are two gold rings, one toy horse, and a gold cross. I don’t touch those.
I replace the lid and settle against my makeshift pillow, clutching the wallet and gazing at the picture until I fall asleep.
But my last thoughts aren’t of the smiling family in the photograph. They’re of the boy on fire.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book is a whirlwind and catches you by surprise, so that you find yourself staying up til 3 am to finish. All the characters are brilliantly written, and the incorporation of comics in the story is awesome.
This was a total gut punch of a book in the best way possible. Andrew's struggle to hide from his grief and his loss is so painfully relatable, and the tragedies that shadow him and the other teenage characters are never milked for some cheap emotional payoff. Even as he makes terrible choices or acts in ways that might seem unhinged, I was rooting for him to let go of his pain and move forward, to tend to himself and his own needs the way he tended to so many of his friends in the hospital. As agonizing as 'Five Stages' was, its message is ultimately hopeful: that the only way through grief is forward, that life is for the living, and that the best way to honor the dead is to live as fully as possible. I can't believe I waited so long to read it.
Wow. Okay. Honestly, I had picked up “We Are the Ants” to read first but Cinder wanted to read it so I chose something else since we read ebooks on the same account. Didn’t want to mess her up. At once, I’m glad I grabbed this book and still heartbroken over it too. This book follows Andrew Brawley, a boy living in a hospital. It follows as he covers his illegal existence by working in the cafeteria and volunteering in the ER and visiting in pediatrics. However, it starts with Rusty arriving at the hospital and how his pain pushes Andrew forward unwillingly to face the things he’s refused to. We see Andrew’s pain as well as the secret lives of everyone he comes across. A reminder that everyone has their pain holding them back. As the title suggests, this book is about grief and working through it and it does so remarkably well. This book is so deeply intrenched in grief that’s it’s both painful and glorious. There were several moments in which I felt like continuing to read and experience Andrew’s struggle was accepting the tiny hooks scooping out pieces of my soul. Reading this was what the Koreans would express as hansum, a single moment of life that’s so focused and entrenched in the pains and joys of being that it steals the breath right out of your chest. It’s that moment in a movie or book in which you connect so well with a character and what’s happening to them that you feel your heart beat (and break) for them. This book does its job of pulling you along with Andrew and making you feel as he does. Don’t get me wrong. This is not me talking anyone out of reading this book. Hell no. This is me expressing just how necessary reading this book is. It’s that good and it’s a piece of life many—most—of us ignore due to the pain it brings. I’m not sure if I could ever reread this book but I most definitely recommend it as a stepping stone to acceptance. I think it’s pretty obvious that I give this book a 5 out of 5.
Thanks to Riveted Lit and Simon & Schuster for the chance to read The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley by Shaun David Hutchinson. Beautiful descriptions of all that Andrew senses bring the story instantly to life. The book description on Goodreads contained the statement, “partly graphic novel”, because the character, Andrew, creates a graphic novel about Patient F, a superhero. Andrew survived something tragic and hides out and lives in the hospital where his family members died. He makes friends with hospital workers and patients and he has an effect on each of them. He eventually has to face terms with hiding behind the fake persona he’s created when everything seems to be falling apart around him. Tastefully written and heart wrenching, The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley ends with hope in sight, worth 5 stars! *I received a complimentary copy of this book for voluntary review consideration.
Will not ever forget this one I finished this book ten months ago and am still thinking about it. Andrew Brawley is a character who will get in your mind and never leave. The writing is fantastic and the plot will have you hp;ding your breath at times. Every character in this book is wonderful. This book is perfection.
4.5 stars Death is near and Drew is keeping his eye on her as he knows he has escaped her grips once and his time will come eventually. As he lives his life in the corridors of the hospital working and mingling among the staff and patients, he tries to remain as inconspicuous as possible. Drew knows he must also be a shadow to those individuals who can take his life away from him. As I read about Drew as he strolls down the corridors, the people inside these walls are his family, this is all he has. The author slowly reveals part of Drew’s past but to lock yourself inside a hospital and forget the outside world, I just don’t understand why Drew took such drastic measures. Drew, a teenager, who should be out in the world having a good time has locked himself up and carries with him a bag of emotions. What brought him to this point and why is he dealing with all of this? Drew’s obsessive watch over death has him stretched over the hospital and many individuals have gotten to know him but none have gotten to know the real Drew. Working in the cafeteria, Drew hears the stories that echo throughout the hospital and his inquisitive mind finds him with Rusty, a boy brought in with burns over his body. Rusty’s cries haunt Drew even after the lights go out. There is more to Rusty’s story than what is being told and as Drew quietly makes his way into Rusty’s room, I am trying to figure out if he’s there to keep Death away or for his own desires. Drew ongoing relationship with Lexi and Trevor, I can’t help but smile and feel the love that these three friends had for one another. Cancer, it hung over their heads yet they tried to move forward and be positive and hopeful. The night in the cafeteria, as Drew and Steven retreated into the kitchen, Chef Arnold basking in his moment and I, my face was beaming and my eyes were glazing over and I paused……I had to savor this moment, for this moment was what we all needed.
This book is so well written, and I loved the characters! I loved the mix of kind of magical realism with contemporary--it kept you wondering how much was in Andrew's head and how much was real within the story's world. All of the characters were not only three-dimensional, but unique--there were no "types"; every character felt like a real person I could, and would like to, meet (which made the emotional parts extra emotional). Shaun did a great job with this one--it's definitely my favorite of his (but the others are worth checking out as well) On a side note I enjoy how his novels are all stand-alones and completely different from each other. You never know what you're going to get! Finally, the graphic novel fit perfectly and was a great device to further the story and bring it to a satisfying conclusion without going on and on with exposition.
THIS BOOK. It's worth the read for the writing alone--I frequently reread lines, because they were just so effortless and beautiful. But the characters are also very intelligently drawn, and the story takes risk after risk after risk, each of which pays off big-time. I also love the way the main character's sexuality is handled--it's part of the story, without *being* the story. I highly recommend picking this one up. Just beware: if you do read it, The Feels Are Coming.
This novel was pure magic! I loved everything about it from the start to the finish! The graphic novel within it was great and I loved how it told the readers what happened to Andrew through the rest of his live. Shaun Hutchinson is a pure genius and can't wait for more of his novels.
I have been trying to figure out how to start this review, even sending texts to a friend trying to explain the depth of feeling I have over this book and I think I have decided that the best way to start this is to use the texts I sent to her. So just bear with me a little bit. Text: "So I've been sitting here in front of my computer for seemingly ages trying to figure out my review for Five Stages of Andrew Brawley....I'm just....I haven't got the words, (I don't mean that in a bad way) it's just so emotionally complex. It's twisted and weird, dark and terribly sad. But, at the same time it is this ray of light and joy and hope." Andrew (Drew) Brawley is a teenager torn between his past and his future. After his parents and sister a killed in a tragic accident Drew finds himself alone, lost, tormented by nightmares, and scared. He tries to occupy his time and mind by befriending several nurses, staff, and patients, working in the hospital's cafeteria, watching as patients come and go in the ER, and creating his flawed hero, Patient F's graphic novel. I don't want to go into too much detail about each character because as I mentioned each of their stories plays such a pivotal role in the world Shaun has created for Drew that to tell you even the smallest bits will take away from the wholeness of the story. I truly loved the connections between the characters in this story. Shaun's character development is amazingly done. Every person in this book is simply living life the best way they can, every one of them is flawed and it makes everyone of them beautiful. Every one of their stories are separate and yet they all connect back together into a whole that creates the universe that has become Drew's. Shaun's writing style is rich and full of depth. It's much like looking at a painting that is full of deep rich colors where you can see every brush stroke. You can feel the texture of the paint against the canvas, you could spend hours or days looking at this one painting and never see all the little nuances the artist has hidden deep within, and around each curve. I've not ever really read a graphic novel so I can't say for certain that I would be a fan of them or not, but I enjoyed how Shaun incorporated 'Drew's' graphic novel into the story. Seeing it unfold in-between the pages of the story was a really clever and ingenious touch. It made my understanding of who Patient F is and how he fits into Drew's story that much easier. I especially loved the bit we get at the end of the book where it brings everything back together. I loved that this book is about a lot of things and none of them all at once. It's not a true coming of age story, but there is still so much growth that happens for so many of the characters. It's not simply a story about a gay teen, but it is a story about his romance. This isn't just a story about death, it is a story about life and choosing to live it even when death surrounds us. It isn't a story about the past, although it is a story about how the past affects who we become and how we move forward. In the end I think that is the most important thing we can take away from this book. We watch Drew's suffering, we watch the pain and anguish of each character in the story, we see death, heartbreak, suffering...but when it is all said and done we see life, joy, happiness, and hope. Most importantly we see hope. I see a lot of Andrew Smith (Author of Grasshopper Jungle, 100 Sideways Miles, Alex Crow) in Shaun's style of writing, which I love. It's a quirky weirdness that has this utterly complex and deep meaning. It seeps into your sub-conscious and when you close the back cover on the book you are left sitting there feeling the words sink deep into you, leaving you almost breathless with thought. This is a book that will make you look at the world around you, make you think not only about your life, your mortality, but also that of others. Have tissue handy, this is a beautiful read but not a simple one by any means. If you are looking for something deep and meaningful this is your book. If you want something to challenge the way you think and see the world around you definitely pick this book up. While this is a YA book I do recommend it for older teens, based on the difficult topics of death and substantial bullying. It is a great read to remind us how our actions affect others and that we all need something to live for.
*Note: I received this book in exchange for an honest review* The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley was a truly fantastic book! I loved every minute of reading it, which, sadly, wasn't very long because I was so interested! It was a whirlwind of love and hate, joy and despair, and life and death. I haven't been able to stop thinking about it and hope you will give yourself the opportunity that is this book (i.e. you should read it). The Cover: Andrew (Drew) is on the cover. I like this cover, for some reason, but there really isn't much to say about it, though it works. I'm not even annoyed by the "A Novel". (That's a pet peeve of mine. I don't get the need for clarification.) My Description: Drew is a teenager who lives at the hospital, though he's not a patient. He works in the cafeteria and never leaves, sleeping in an abandoned wing of the hospital. He entertains himself by writing a comic book, Patient F, and through the friends he's made at the hospital, such as a few kids with cancer and the ER nurses. Drew won't let anyone know him too well, otherwise they might notice that he's not who he says he is. However, when a boy, Rusty, is brought into the emergency room after being burned alive, Drew finds himself wanting to help the other boy in any way that he can, and he slowly realizes that he can't stay in the hospital forever. (I thought that the official description had a few too many minor spoilers in it, but if you want to read it... Link to Official Description ) My Review: I really like The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley, but I have to warn you that it is depressing. It isn't a book that entirely focuses on tragedy. There are points of pure happiness, but the sad moments, while less in number than you would anticipate, can be pretty sad. (I imagine you picked that up from the title, but one can never be too careful.) Aside from the tragedies, this book was actually really sweet. There were multiple romances occurring in the hospital that were insanely cute at certain points. I loved all of the characters. There weren't just unique, but they were like-able! I felt every character's pain and joy like it was my own. They were complex and very, very complicated. They also had this amazing thing, character development! Drew ended the book as a completely different person than he was at the beginning. Even smaller characters, like Drew's boss, Arnold, had extreme character growth over the course of the novel. The plot was amazing. It kept me in complete suspense. Shaun Hutchinson kept just the right amount of details from the reader to make the characters' backstories a mystery that was worth solving. At the end of every couple of chapters was a one or two page excerpt from Drew's Patient F comic book. I really enjoyed this small aspect, as the life of Patient F mirrored Drew's life perfectly and added to the experience of reading this book. Still, there was not too many comic book panels, so it did not detract from the story. (It was done in a way that kind of reminds me of Winger by Andrew Smith, it supplemented the story.) The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley was both sweet and heartbreaking, but it was mainly wonderful. I would highly recommend it! To be warned, it does contain some adult themes such as death, so don't give it to your seven year old niece, but for the rest of you, I strongly recommend that you try to read The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley. It was a really great read. The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley by Shaun Hutchinson comes out January 20, 2015 Phrases (I can't decide): Andrew. Andy or Drew. Whatever. AND Death likes scrambled eggs