How to Live on the Edge
Eighteen-year-old Cayenne barely remembers her mother, who died of breast cancer when Cayenne was four. The women in her family have a history of dying young. Cayenne figures she'll meet the same fate, so she might as well enjoy life now, engaging in death-defying risks like dodging trains and jumping off cliffs with her boyfriend.
When Cayenne receives a series of video messages her mother made for her before dying, she isn't sure she wants them. Her aunt Tee has been her true mother figure. But then Aunt Tee tests positive for a BRCA gene mutation--the one that doomed Cayenne's mom--and decides to get a mastectomy to reduce her chances of developing cancer. As Cayenne helps her aunt prepare for the surgery, she finds herself drawn to her mother's messages, with their musings on life, love, and perseverance. For the first time, Cayenne starts to question what it truly means to live life to the fullest, even when death might be written into her DNA.
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About the AuthorSarah Lynn Scheerger is a clinical social worker who works with "at-promise" youth, helping them figure out who they are and who they want to be. She started writing as a convenient excuse to avoid laundry, and admittedly has gotten a little carried away. She writes picture books as well as middle-grade and young adult novels. She lives in southern California with her husband and children. To learn more, check out her website at www.sarahlynnbooks.com.
"From jumping off cliffs to leaping into the uncertainty of life and the possibility she may have the BRCA gene that killed her mother, Cayenne is a perfectly flawed and fearless heroine who we want to defy the odds. As Cayenne and her sister work through a series of video images their mother left to them before succumbing to cancer and their own conflicted relationship, her ideas about family, romance, womanhood, and the future are unraveled, torn, and reknit. Burgeoning with questions like Can we love after we've lost? and Can we fight fate?, this powerful story answers yes!"--NoNieqa Ramos, author of The Disturbed Girl's Dictionary and The Truth Is--Other Print
"Scheerger drops us into the psyche of a snarky, irresistible teen who's navigating the dangers of a life-threatening gene mutation. The voice is authentic and emotionally passionate in this headlong page-turner."--Sherry Shahan, author of Skin and Bones--Other Print
"Cancer took Cayenne's mom, it's gunning for her aunt, and she's sure she's next. But as long-held secrets upend Cayenne's world, she learns that defying death isn't about facing down trains or jumping off cliffs--it's learning to live and love with every ounce of your being. Honest and real, How to Live on the Edge is a gift to young readers living in the frightening shadow of a genetic curse."--Catherine Linka, author of What I Want You to See, A Girl Called Fearless, and A Girl Undone--Other Print
"Told with humor and truth, this story of a young woman navigating loss, devastating secrets, and the reality of her own mortality is made richer for the unique and hopeful bond she shares with her sister, the unfamiliar love she discovers with a family she thought she understood--and the strength she needs to save herself."--Jennifer Longo, author of Six Feet Over It and Up to this Pointe--Other Print
"In Cayenne and Saffron, Sarah Lynn Scheerger creates fearless, compassionate, empowered sisters who, in figuring out what kind of women they want to be, love on the edge and steal your heart like they stole mine."--Gaby Triana, author of Wake the Hollow, Cakespell, and Summer of Yesterday--Other Print
"A stirring story filled with heart and soul, and one that will dare you to rethink what it truly means to be brave and alive!"--Mary Rand Hess, New York Times-bestselling author of Solo and Swing--Other Print
"A teen reckons with her family's genetic curse. In this sweeping bildungsroman, Scheerger (Mitzvah Pizza, 2019, etc.) introduces sisters Cayenne and Saffron Silk, who were orphaned at a young age when their mother succumbed to what they call their family curse and lost her battle with breast cancer. Raised by their aunt, the girls barely remember their mother and have never known the identity of their father. The only certainty in their lives has been the knowledge that, in the last two generations, no woman on their mother's side has lived past age 37, but a family friend shares a letter from the girls' mother that reveals more of their history. Scheerger plumbs how growing up with this knowledge has influenced Cay, who seeks to beat death at every turn by engaging in daredevil acts like train dodging and cliff diving with her boyfriend just to get a rush and take control of life. Throughout this action-packed tale, the contrast between Cay's and Saff's reactions to their newfound knowledge, as well as their and their aunt's decisions about whether to get tested for the BRCA gene mutation, yield a revealing study in personal growth and sibling relations. But psychologically probing as Scheerger's narrative is, it's maddeningly vague in describing these presumably white, lower-middle-class characters, making it difficult for teens to imagine themselves in similar circumstances. An engaging tale of vulnerability and control."--Kirkus Reviews--Journal
"Teenagers Cayenne and Saffron barely remember their mother, who died from breast cancer when they were young. Understanding that this could be their future as well, Cayenne aspires to live fully, if recklessly, while Saffron is dedicated to being her best self. When their Aunt Tee, who raised them, tests positive for BRCA--the inherited gene that all but guarantees her their mother's fate--she opts for elective mastectomy and gives the girls access to a journal and series of videos created for them by their mother. Cay isn't as interested in her mother's musings as Saff, yet as Cay helps Tee before surgery, she feels a need to hear her mother out. Slowly, she begins questioning her long-held beliefs about her future. Without sermonizing, Scheerger, who herself inherited the BRCA gene mutation, explores the issue of testing early and, if positive, maintaining a regimen for protection. The sisters' complex journeys result in an interesting, informative narrative whose focus on the BRCA gene mutation marks it as an important addition to young adult literature."--Booklist--Journal
"Breast cancer runs in Cayenne's family, and she is planning on living every day to the fullest. Because of the high risk of inheriting the BRCA gene mutation that already claimed her mother's life when she was little, Cayenne is an adrenaline junkie who dodges trains and jumps off cliffs just for the rush. When they lost their mom, Cayenne and her sister, Saffron, were taken in by their young aunt, who undergoes a preventative mastectomy to reduce her chances of getting what they call the 'Silk family curse.' When the sisters receive a series of videos filmed by their mother before her passing, family secrets will come into the open, including the identity of the father they never knew. Too many changes put Cayenne on edge, and when tragedy strikes, she'll have to ask herself if everyone and everything she loves are worth risking. This novel deals with some important issues such as body image and the definition of femininity. Are breasts and ovaries what make a woman? And if she must have them removed, will she still feel desirable? Readers will root for Cayenne despite the many mistakes she makes. VERDICT This book has a strong character arc and can be used as a starting point to talk to teenagers about life choices, identity, and the inescapable reality of life-ending diseases. Recommended for libraries where books about medical issues and family secrets circulate well."--School Library Journal--Journal