Cover Image: The First Day of Spring

The First Day of Spring

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The First Day of Spring by Nancy Tucker is a novel that might be uncomfortable for some to read but I found it riveting. Chrissie killed a toddler when she herself was only 8 years old. It was not an accident. She did it because she liked how it made her feel. Fast forward many years and Chrissie is now an adult living under a new name and life story while raising a young daughter. She lives in fear of harming her daughter and of her true identity being revealed. The reader doesn't know whether to feel bad for Chrissie and the life she was raised in or to feel disgusted by her and her life choices. Read and enjoy!
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This is a very dark psychological novel of an abused and neglected girl who commits an unforgivable crime. Told primarily in two voices, Chrissie at age 8, and Julia ( Chrissie) at age 28, now with a child of her own, Nancy Tucker examines the causes of Chrissie’s actions.
Highly Recommended
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“I killed a boy today.” From the very first line I was completely pulled into this story. This is a dark and heartbreaking story of a neglected little girl who does the unimaginable. The writing style of past and present POV from Chrissie and Julia was perfect for this story.
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The First Day of Spring is a chilling novel that explores what it takes for a child to kill another. Starting with the murder, the story hooks readers right away as you begin to wonder how we got to this point for an eight year old to kill another child. The story alternates between Chrissie's perspective as a child and Chrissie's perspective as an adult under her new name Julia. She now has a five year old daughter and fears her child being taken away from her more than anything. She only wants her daughter to live out the childhood she never got to. The story is highly compelling and filled with twists. Highly recommended to those who enjoy thrillers involving children who kill.
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I really wanted to love this one, especially after hearing all the buzz, but I probably should have realized it wasn't for me when it was compared to The Push (another hyped book I just couldn't come around to). I ended up not finishing this one because I was immediately turned off and uninterested in the inner workings of the main character and narrator. I might pick it up again at some point, but it's not something I'm eager to get back to right now.
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I inexplicably find myself drawn to stories & films of children with murderous tendencies.  The 1956 classic, The Bad Seed, is one of my favorites, and I also immensely enjoyed Zoje Stage's Baby Teeth & Ashley Audrain's The Push.  If you liked these novels as well, consider picking up Nancy Tucker's new book, The First Day of Spring.

You may think that "The First Day of Spring" is an odd name for a novel about a killer child, but it is named as such because the book's protagonist, eight year old Chrissie, kills a little boy on the first day of spring.  What could cause a child to kill another child?  That's what The First Day of Spring is all about.  This gripping, heart-wrenching story told by Chrissy as a young girl, and later as Chrissy as an adult with a child of her own, explores the traumatic, abusive environment that Chrissy grew up in & begs the question, "How much are the evils that lurk within us due to nature & how much are they due to nurture?"  The parts of the story narrated by adult Chrissy show her living in fear that her daughter will be taken from her because of the person she used to be.  Both child and adult Chrissy's narratives come together to give us a complete picture of her mind and psyche then and now.

Although incredibly dark & sinister, The First Day of Spring is an excellent book for those who like ominous portrayals of broken and conflicted characters.  I found myself at times shocked by Chrissy's behavior, and at others, sympathizing with her plight.  Prepare to have your heart strings tugged in multiple directions for several characters in this deep and troubling tale of a child who tries to quiet the demons inside of her by inflicting them on someone else.
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This book was so disturbing, but not in a bad way.  I really wanted to like Christie.  I really hoped she would redeem herself.  But she was just a crappy person, but in a well told story.
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The truth always comes to light.  In The First Day of Spring, the truth hits hard.  Plot twist is killer and the writing style made is so I dashed through the book in two days.  So, so good!  Will be purchasing for the library's collection.
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A troubling novel about a child who kills. What happened to shape this child into a killer? Is there any redemption or rehabilitation possible? A disturbing  and interesting read. 

**I received an electronic ARC from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review of this book.
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I’ve always thought one of the biggest questions our species has had to wrestle with is forgiveness and unforgivableness. Forgiveness is hard. The worse the crime, the more impossible it seems to forgive the perpetrator. It’s little wonder that, at least in Western culture, we talk about things that are unforgivable. We struggle to design just solutions that punish the criminal and make appropriate reparations to the victims. In fact, we seem to leave punishment to our governments and atonement to religion. I’ve even struggled to write this opening paragraph because I just lack the vocabulary to be precise about my thoughts. Ever since I finished Nancy Tucker’s searing exploration of forgiveness and unforgiveness The First Day of Spring, I’ve been thinking hard about whether there are such things as unforgiveable crimes and just punishment. This novel is an amazing exploration of impossible questions.

Chrissie, the protagonist of The First Day of Spring, starts her crimes early. On the first page of the novel and at the shocking age of eight, Chrissie strangles another child to death. This is the kind of crime that shocks us. The victim is a child. The perpetrator is a child. We don’t have laws for this kind of situation. And it’s rare enough that this kind of crime just short circuits us. It’s only after several chapters from Chrissie’s perspective that we start to learn how a little girl became “a bad seed”—a term that a neighbor uses and Chrissie adopts. The way that Chrissie has grown up is another crime. Her mother is extremely neglectful. Chrissie is left to fend for herself, down to creating strategies for cadging food out of mothers in the neighborhood and getting extra milk at school. The only time she gets attention from any adults is when she misbehaves. It doesn’t take a semester of Psychology 101 to know what this teaches Chrissie to do. None of this excuses what Chrissie does, but it helps to explain it a little.

Chrissie’s chapters alternate with chapters narrated by a woman named Julia. Julia is Chrissie, more than a decade later. We learn early on that Chrissie was sentenced to a Home, a secure group home for juvenile offenders that rehabilitates more than punishes. After her release, Chrissie is given a new name and a chance to restart her life. By the time we meet her again, Chrissie/Julia has had a daughter. Molly is Chrissie’s entire reason for living these days, and she is terrified that social services will take Molly away. These chapters fascinated me Chrissie has changed so much that she hardly seems like the same person. She has been completely transformed by years of enforced boundaries, good nutrition, and maturity. Instead of acting out of rage and impulse, Julia is afraid of not following the rules. She emotionally punishes herself by avoiding happiness and good things in life. Her “punishment” wasn’t the kind of punishment that one grows to resent. Instead, Chrissie’s time in that Home saved her from being a monster for the rest of her life.

But, as we read Julia’s chapters in The First Day of Spring, I was constantly thinking about the rightness of Chrissie’s punishment. Nothing that could’ve happened to Chrissie that would truly punish her for what she did. Chrissie’s extreme hunger and the parental neglect are complicating factors. They did so much psychological damage to Chrissie that her legal defense could probably have made a good case for Chrissie being not guilty by reason of insanity. When I read Julia’s chapters, I found myself so sympathetic to the transformed character that I felt that any further official punishment would be like punishing the wrong person. The First Day of Spring is the kind of novel that I wish I had read with others, either friends or a book group. There is so much to think and talk about here that I would love to know about what others think. I’m not a parent. Would I think differently of Chrissie/Julia if I had a child of my own? I’m also not a psychologist or social worker, so I don’t know if Chrissie’s situation would cause the behaviors seen here. Could Chrissie be more a product of nurture than nature? What on earth can or should be done with child offenders?

All of this is handled in solid prose that doesn’t belabor its themes. The dialogue feels realistic and brutally honest. There are so many ways that The First Day of Spring could’ve gone wrong. That it didn’t just makes this book even more spectacular. Tucker is deft hand at treating heavy topics with a light touch. I can’t say enough good things about this novel. If you’re the kind of reader who can handle insoluble, emotionally wrenching topics, I think you’ll love this book.
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Intense, brutal--The First Day of Spring is a gorgeously written punch of a novel, the suffering and brutality of a child lost and abused lashing out and inwards. I cried so hard reading about Chrissie's life before and for the name she wears like a ragged cloak as she lives with her daughter, Molly, after. A scathing indictment of how abused and neglected children fell and fall through society's enormous cracks, the way we all lie to ourselves when we don't want to see suffering, and how those who need our help the most rarely get it in any forms they can comprehend.

If you're looking for a feel good read, this isn't it. But if you're willing to read a raw novel about what suffering does, about what being deemed bad can turn you into, and what love in a ragged, needy, and lost way can be at its best and worst, you will not be sorry you read this. It's brilliant and painful and astonishing. An absolute must read, and a novel I won't forget anytime soon. For those unafaid of the darkness of the human heart, this is very, very highly recommended. A staggeringly brilliant novel.
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Tucker's ability to inhabit the voice of young, disturbed Chrissy is extraordinary. Though the novel's first line is an obvious hook, Tucker earns it by unfolding a bleak story of great pathos and understanding. The dual narrative voices of young Chrissy and the adult mother she becomes is really successful and offers the reader the promise of something more than just a "bad-seed" thriller. It is no small feat to present readers with a distasteful, disturbing and dangerous character on page one and have those same readers rooting for a happy ending by the last page.
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I received an ARC of this novel from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Chrissie is a hurting girl who hurts others in the worst way.  Her story of  redemption is powerful.
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Chrissie is 8 when she kills a little boy in the neighborhood. She spends her days trying to stay away from home, not welcome there or in any of the other homes of her friends. In fact, Chrissie knows she's a "bad seed;" not wanted by anyone. 

Twenty years later Chrissie gets another chance at a normal life and is raising five-year-old Molly, but she's constantly worried that Molly will be taken away by social services.

I had very conflicting feelings about this book. Chrissie's neglect and abuse is heartbreaking, and the transformation in her as an adult is astounding. I'm not sure that Chrissie's actions as a child and her later transformation as an adult are believable. I also don't believe the relationship between Chrissie and Linda. As someone who is fascinated with psychology and "what makes people behave the way they do," I needed some more psychological basis for Chrissie's character that I felt was missing.
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“I killed a little boy today.” That’s the first line of The First Day of Spring by Nancy Tucker, and it is chilling. Chrissie is 8 years old and she has just strangled a child, which leaves her with a fizzy filling in her belly. While all the families in her town are petrified with a killer on the loose, Chrissie remains self-assured and confident. Fast forward twenty years, and Chrissie is now known as Julia and has a young child herself, whom she is desperate to protect. 

The First Day of Spring is dark and twisty, and you’ll feel both horror and empathy for Chrissie as the story unfolds. I found this novel utterly compelling and unputdownable, despite the dark subject matter. Highly recommended for fans of The Push.
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Could not finish - the writing style made it feel clunky and hard to get into, plus the subject matter was deeply disturbing.
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This story starts with an eight-year-old girl strangling a toddler. Afterward she remembers the murder with excruciating detail and pleasure because it makes her feel powerful, like God. But don't let that first scene scare you away. This is not a horror story. It's not one of those preachy, poor little abused child stories. At it's core, The First Day of Spring is a survival story.

It grabbed me from the first page and kept me reading, rooting for the unlikely heroine: Chrissie is a liar, a bully, and a thief, but every bad thing Chrissie does is a cry for attention in a world where she has been hungry, cold, unloved, and basically on her own practically since birth. Nancy Tucker's ability to put the reader into Chrissie's mind and heart is astonishing. The novel is very well written and suspenseful, but it isn't an easy story to read. We don't like to face the fact that a child like Chrissie might be living somewhere near our own home, playing with our kids in the park, acting out in our child's classroom. Adults in Chrissie's neighborhood know, or at least suspect what Chrissie's life is like, but parents pull their own children close, tell them not to play with Chrissie, and turn away without trying to help her. The mothers in Chrissie's neighborhood put the well-being of their own child first, and tell themselves Chrissie's own mother should look after her.

Yes, Chrissie has a mother, and another aspect of this story is the complicated relationship between mothers and daughters. How much of our life is shaped by our mothers, and our mother's mother? This is a survival story. Chrissie survives.
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Wow! This book was enthralling, disturbing and amazing!  I read it in two days because I could not put it down. Special thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a free electronic advanced readers copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. 
 From the very first page, the author hooks you when she introduces you to the main character, Chrissie, an 8 year old girl who has a brutal home life and goes on to commit a heinous act. While you are repulsed by her crime and the brutality of it, you also come to understand why she did it particularly as the author drops hints of the severe neglect and emotional abuse Chrissie experienced in her home. The story actually flip flops between 8 year old Chrissie and Chrissie 20:years later who is now living under an assumed name after serving time for her crime in a mental institution. Adult Chrissie, aka Julia, is now a single mother to a daughter of her own and she lives with the constant fear of her identity being revealed and her losing custody of her daughter. The crushing guilt she feels for what she did as a child is constant. 
The author did a superb job handling a very tough subject without making it too depressing. You actually end up feeling sorry for Chrissie/Julia and cheering her on as she tries to get her life back on track. There are also some moments of humor interspersed throughout which helps lighten the overall dark mood of the book. This is a story of survival and hope - I highly recommend this memorable book!
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Eight year old Chrissie is a murderer. She’s also neglected by her parents, nearly starving to death and craving attention so badly that she’ll act out in any way possible in school and in the neighborhood, just to get someone to notice her. 

20 years later, Chrissie is now Julia. She’s served her sentence and has changed her name, twice over - she’s also a mum. Her daughter Molly is her world but possibly also her penance. She must do everything right, or will they take Molly away from her too? When Molly breaks her arm in an accident, Chrissie comes back, and they’re both on the run. 

I found Chrissie’s story and POV heartbreaking, though the authors voice of an eight year old is sometimes not fluid - sometimes it feels like an adult’s language or tone. There should also be trigger warnings as food/hunger/starvation are mentioned a lot in this novel. 

I also felt that Adult Chrissie/Julia was not really given the most fleshed out portion of the story. We know her history and a bit about what happened after but the little wrap up at Linda’s seemed rushed, as does the ending. 

Overall, a good novel, with a few hiccups.
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Wow. This honestly was unputdownable and it completely took my breath away. It portrays the life of the severely neglected 8-year-old Chrissie, who kills a toddler. Though the act is reprehensible, her reasons for doing it are expounded upon by the well-written, tragic words that describe Chrissie’s miserable existence. No child should have to put up with what she did and I felt deeply for her. The author brilliantly tugged at my heartstrings with her passionate sentences and it moved me deeply. I will not stop thinking about this anytime soon.
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