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St. Michael's Scales

By Neil Connelly

A debut novelist’s piercing novel about redemption.

“I looked forward to every practice and every match. Sad, tragic, yet beautiful, St. Michael’s Scales weighs in as a winner.” - Han Nolan, National Book Award Winner for Dancing on the Edge

“The characters are wonderfully drawn... This writer deserves to be heard.” - Ernest J. Gaines, author of A Lesson Before Dying

Keegan Flannery will be sixteen in two weeks - another birthday to celebrate without his twin brother Michael, who barely even survived birth, and another birthday to feel guilty about it. But this birthday will different because two weeks before Keegan Flannery has a dream. In it he understands that it was he who was meant to have died, and not Michael, and that this upending of the brothers’ true fate is what has brought so many problems to the Flannery household. And so, in order to right all the wrongs, Keegan begins to plan his own suicide.

But life intercedes in the plan - Keegan joins the wrestling team and a dialogue between him and his father begins. And it may just be enough to change Keegan’s ideas about confession, penance, and the gift of being alive.

Stunningly real, breathtakingly relentless, and shockingly funny, St. Michael’s Scales answers the questions about life we didn’t even know we were asking.


“Sorry to keep you waiting,” Dr. Connors said.

I said, “Don’t sweat it, Mark.”

That stopped him. Then he moved to the side of his desk. “I got held up in the cafeteria. Started talking with Coach Morgan. He says you did him a mighty big favor on Saturday.”

I shrugged.

“Did you like being a part of the wrestling team?”

“I got pinned,” I said. “Twenty-six seconds.”

He smiled that fake smile. “But that’s not really the point. The point is you got out there and participated. You competed. Coach Morgan wants to say thanks. He asked if I’d send you his way when we’re through here. Sound okay?”

Connors reached into the top drawer of his desk and pulled out my folder. It had been right there all along, which means he must have been looking at it before. “According to this, your sixteenth birthday is just around the corner. Any plans?”

I thought about the plans that were coming around the corner, wondered what exactly Michael has in store for next Saturday, and imagined myself standing at the intersection of Sixth and Hamilton. The Beiber Bus barrels out from behind the Ambassador Hotel and turns down Sixth Street, bouncing off parked cars. The driver’s hat presses into the windshield. In the road before me a woman with long black hair like Angela’s holds a baby to her chest and screams. My legs jolt, my hands flash out to push her to safety, then I turn to the grille of the bus, like a huge mouth bearing down on me. And even though I know the pain that will come, I smile because I’m a hero and Mom will be coming home and my soul will float straight to heaven.

I hid my grin from Dr. Connors and said “No plans. Nothing special.”

“That’s a shame,” he said. “You should do something special.” 

Reviews and Awards

"Keegan's twin brother Michael died at birth, and ever since, Keegan has felt responsible and guilty for the death and for the family dissolution carried its wake. To atone, he is planning a suicide when he turns 16, a desperate attempt at forgiveness, absolution, and salvation. This debut novelist succeeds brilliantly at putting readers in to the disturbed and tortured mind of its lovely protagonist. They will experience kaleidoscopic mental images of Heaven and Hell, birth and death, gargoyles, angels, saints, and Frankenstein as Keegan tries to make a life-and death-for himself. Wrestling for Our Lady of Perpetual Help High School becomes his means of doing penance through pain.... In a beautifully wrought final wrestling scene-an image of resurrection-Keegan realizes he has found himself, his place, his voice.... A richly layered, thought-provoking novel of how one boy learns to make weight." - Kirkus Reviews

⋆“Connelly's sophisticated first novel follows a teen consumed by guilt for the death of his twin, who died as an infant. … [T]he Catholic iconography and childhood flashbacks he intertwines with his narration, plus the surreal events, characters and setting, will likely draw readers into his world.” - Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Connelly's complex coming-of-age novel delves deeply into the human psyche and the soul as Keegan realizes that acceptance, not penance, is the answer to facing life. The characters… are believable and likable. This is a dark story but one that is ultimately hopeful.” - School Library Journal

“Haunting” – Booklist

Purchase Options
Amazon • Barnes & Noble

Spring 2002
Young Adult Fiction
ISBN: 0-439-19445-8
Price: $16.95/$23.99
Trim Size: 5 1/2" x 8 1/4"
Page Count: 320
Foreign Rights: Scholastic
Translation Rights: Scholastic
Rights Available? yes

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