Cover image for Nothing to lose
Nothing to lose
Flinn, Alex.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : HarperTempest, [2004]

Physical Description:
277 pages ; 19 cm
A year after running away with a traveling carnival to escape his unbearable home life, sixteen-year-old Michael returns to Miami, Florida, to find that his mother is going on trial for the murder of his abusive stepfather.
Reading Level:
550 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 3.5 7.0 78115.

Reading Counts RC High School 4.7 13 Quiz: 36339 Guided reading level: NR.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Young Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
X Young Adult Fiction Young Adult

On Order



A year after running away with a traveling carnival to escape his unbearable home life, sixteen-year-old Michael returns to Miami, Florida, to find that his mother is going on trial for the murder of his abusive stepfather.

Author Notes

Alex Flinn was born in Glen Cove, New York. Before going to law school, she received a degree in vocal performance (opera) from the University of Miami. She practiced law for ten years before becoming a full-time author. She based her first book, Breathing Underwater, on her experiences interning with the State Attorney's Office and volunteering with battered women. Breathing Underwater, which is about dating violence, won the Maryland Black-Eyed Susan Award in 2004. She has written several books including Diva, Nothing to Lose, Fade to Black, and A Kiss in Time. Her current title Beastly has been published in three editions and made Publishers Weekly best seller list.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 7-12. The author of Breathing Underwater (2001) and Breaking Point (2002) mines her legal background to good effect in this new novel. A year has passed since Michael fled his impossible home life to join a traveling carnival. Now the 17-year-old runaway has returned to Miami to find his mother going on trial for the murder of his savagely abusive stepfather. What really happened? Only Michael knows the whole truth, but will he come forward? In a narrative that--in brief, alternating chapters--moves backward and forward in time, Flinn expertly reveals how very complicated this question is. The result is a fast-paced, readable mystery that is rooted in the psychology of battered-spouse syndrome and its impact on an entire family. An inside look at carnival life and Michael's growing love for another carny namedirstie add gritty texture and a layer of emotional richness to the already intriguing plot. --Michael Cart Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Michael Daye has been living under an assumed name and traveling with a carnival for the past year, but he returns with the carnival to Miami just as his mother is about to stand trial for murdering her abusive older husband, supposedly right after Michael left. Sickened at media depictions of his mother as a scheming, ruthless golddigger, Michael decides to help her, but when he asks a lawyer to prepare him to testify, he slowly reveals pieces of a chilling secret. Flinn (Breaking Point) creates a compelling premise and format, alternating between the past year and the present. Michael remembers how Walker, his rich stepfather, beat and controlled his mother (Michael is so afraid to leave her that he quits the football team, even though he's about to start as quarterback). When he meets Kirstie, a carnival worker who shares a troubled past, they form a fast bond; she encourages him to join her world ("We don't talk about our pasts here"). But when he does, Kirstie's gone, and he learns he "can't escape who I was, or what I still am." Although the contrivances wear thin-both Walker and Michael's mother are too one-dimensional to seem believable, and fans of the genre will easily guess Michael's big secret-the juicy story and edgy narration will likely hook readers. Ages 14-up. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 9 Up-Michael Daye, aka Robert Frost, is on the run, and he knows he never should have returned to Miami, but in order to keep his job with the carnival, he has to go where it takes him. He hopes that he won't be recognized as the son of Lisa Monroe, who is on trial for the murder of her millionaire husband, Michael's tyrannical, abusive stepfather. Through alternating present/last-year chapters, readers follow the teen as he tries to live in the moment and avoid the cops who want to question him, while remembering his life just before he ran away from home. Unfortunately, he had been unable to convince his mother to leave the marriage, so she took the only other way out- or did she? Flinn has created a believable, conflicted, and often angry protagonist. This is a compelling story about abusive relationships and the trauma they cause, as well as the legal implications of "self-defense" within them. Readers will be drawn to Michael in his despair and his fervent desire to protect his mother. Unfortunately, all too many young adults will know firsthand how accurate the portrayals are. This is a heartrending, unforgettable book.-Lynn Evarts, Sauk Prairie High School, Prairie du Sac, WI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.