Reviews - What do customers think about The 86th Degree?
A must-read for educators; a wonderful read for romantics May 8, 2008
Every book I have read lately invariably diappoints me in some way midway through, and leaves me wanting more. Whether it is weak character development, unbelievable action, predictable ending, I finish the book, but don't feel satisfied. There is just no meat. But Barbara Harken's The 86th Degree filled me up--with heart.
A good weekend read Apr 15, 2008
Reviewed by Danielle Feliciano for Reader Views (4/08)
At its core, "The 86th Degree" is a novel of romance, love, family, abuse and loss. Amber Helm has been neglected and manipulated by her parents from birth. Her mother is a severe diabetic whose illness has controlled the family for as long as Amber can remember. There seems to be an eerie correlation between Amber's behavior and her mother's medical crises. Her father is rich, powerful and overbearing. As an adult, Amber has defied her parents enough to take a job of her choosing, yet continues to benefit from their money.
As an English teacher, Amber is selected to act as host to a visiting writer who will be teaching for a few weeks. To her dismay, the writer turns out to be Ethan Michaels. Ethan and Amber had a fling three years ago. It could have been more but Amber left without an explanation and it is immediately clear neither Ethan nor Amber has gotten over their separation.
Amber gets a new student in her class, Jocelyn. Jocelyn is clearly abused and/or neglected and Amber sets out to help her. Her desire to help is admirable, but it is easy to question her motivation. I found myself asking whether Amber was trying to save Jocelyn or to save herself.
"The 86th Degree" is a good read for a weekend curled up with a book. As faulted as Amber is, it's hard not to like her and want her to be happy. However, I found the story was choppy at times which made it hard to stay focused. Amber went back and forth between present and past too often. She had panic attacks and a few times her behavior went so far as to be unbelievable. I don't see many people putting up with behavior like hers for long (the rambling outbursts that make no sense, the staring into space and seeming to be lost inside of her self with no regard for the situation).
Overall "The 86th Degree" did its job. The author made the point clear that blood is not always thicker than water and family ties truly can strangle us. I was satisfied with the ending and enjoyed reading this book.
A Story of Abuse, Rejection, and Healing Mar 27, 2008
Barbara Harken writes with fervor in "The 86th Degree." She relates the story of Amber Helm. Her novel combines a story of romance, rejection, self acceptance, and emotional healing.
Amber, young and idealistic, has intentionally chosen teaching as a profession to enable her to positively influence students. She is a high school teacher in Chicago's inner city. Amber has been instrumental in securing a grant for the school to sponsor a special class to encourage young journalism students. Ethan Michaels will be teaching the five week class.
Amber is conflicted as she learns that Ethan will be leading the class and that she has been assigned to welcome him to the school as a department host. Three years earlier Amber had walked out on Ethan after a brief summer romance and had not seen or heard from him since.
As Amber relives some deep rooted emotional experiences of her childhood, her mother's illness, and the demands of her wealthy father she finds herself on an emotional roller coaster.
Amber is faced with stark reality of the emotional crisis that one of her students, Jocelyn is going through. She begins to cultivate friendship with her and soon discovers that there is an abusive relationship in the home. Her own deep seated anger and emotional scars cause Amber to make unwise decisions that have serious ramifications on her career.
Harken introduces the reader to the foundational issues of child abuse, verbal, and physical, and of the paradigm shift in philosophical, psychological, and legal implications being faced in our society today.
Conflict, resolution, and more conflict keep the reader glued to the pages of this important novel which creates a social awareness and critique of the problem of abusive relationships and the importance of the availability of emotional caregivers, and interventions.
Barbara Harken writes convincingly with a strong plot, crisp dialog, and believable characters. She has used her own experience in the classroom to create a timely, engrossing, poignant story of hurt and healing.