Phoenix Rising

Karen Hesse

Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)

Nyle's life with her grandmother on their Vermont sheep farm advances rhythmically through the seasons until the night of the accident at the Cookshire nuclear power plant. Without warning, Nyle's modest world fills with protective masks, evacuations, contaminated food, disruptions, and mistrust.

Nyle adjusts to the changes. As long as the fallout continues blowing to the East, Nyle, Gran, and the farm can go on. But into this uncertain haven stumble Ezra Trent and his mother, "refugees" from the heart of the accident, who take temporary shelter in the back bedroom of Nyle's house.

The back bedroom is the dying room: It took her mother when Nyle was six; it stole away her grandfather just two years ago. Now Ezra is back there and Nyle doesn't want to open her heart to him. Too many times she's let people in, only to have them desert her.

Karen Hesse's voice and vision are grounded in truth; she takes on a nearly unharnessable subject, contains it, and makes it resonate with honesty. Part love story, part coming of age, this is a tour de force by a gifted writer.


Read an Excerpt


Snapping my arm forward, I winged a stone toward the woods. It fell short of Ripley Powers's dog, Tyrus. I meant it to fall short. I had no wish to hurt the dog, only to chase him off.

"Get on home!" I yelled through the gauze mask that had covered my face for nearly a week now. I shook my fist at the dog. "Get on home, Tyrus!"

Even after he'd run into the woods, Tyrus's barking cut through the crisp November air, echoing down the valley.

Back across the field, in a corner of the front pasture, the yearling sheep crowded together, except for one,



Praise for Phoenix Rising

"Hesse portrays her characters' anguish and their growing tenderness with such unwavering clarity and grace that she sustains the tension of her lyrical, understated narrative right to her stunning, beautifully wrought conclusion."--Kirkus, pointer

"Hesse has displayed considerable skill in creating a contemporary tale of hope and love rising, like a phoenix, from destruction and despair."--School Library Journal, starred review

"After a catastrophic accident at a nuclear power plant not far from their small New England sheep farm, 13-year-old Nyle Sumner and her grandmother slowly discover they have been spared from direct radiation.... The author’s understated approach heightens the emotional impact of her searching and memorable tale."--Publishers Weekly, starred review

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Karen Hesse

  • Karen Hesse is the author of many books for young people, including Out of the Dust, winner of the Newbery Medal, Letters from Rifka, Brooklyn Bridge, Sable and Lavender. She has received honors including the Scott O’Dell Historical Fiction Award, the Christopher Award, and the MacArthur Fellowship “Genius” Award, making her only the second children's book author to receive this prestigious grant. Born in Baltimore, Hesse graduated from the University of Maryland. She and her husband Randy live in Vermont.
  • Karen Hesse


Available Formats and Book Details

Phoenix Rising

Karen Hesse

  • Trade Paperback


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