Waiting for Sarah

By James Heneghan and Bruce McBay.

  • Published by Orca Book Publishers in the USA and Canada, 2003.

manitobaYRCAWinner of the Manitoba Young Readers’ Choice Award, 2005

1210_redmaple_logoSelected as a Red Maple Award Honor Book by the Ontario Library Association, 2004

Nominated for:

  • American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults, 2005
  • The Stellar Book Award, B.C.’s Teen Readers’ Choice Award, 2005/06

“[Heneghan] and McBay do an outstanding job with Mike’s anger and his inability to confront himself as the obstacle to the normal life to which he might return.”

Lynne Hawkins, Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA)

“The story is a strange mix of the simple and the haunting… chilling and effective.”
Margaret Mackey, Resource Link


Mike’s parents and sister are dead and his legs are gone. The horrific accident that shattered his life continues to haunt him. When we grudgingly returns to school and a life that he no longer understands, Mike is bitter and unwilling to participate in school life. To avoid one of his classes and get more time away from his classmates, Mike agrees to put together a 50th Anniversary history of the school. Looking forward to time alone, he is annoyed when a young girl shows up in the archives on a regular basis. Sarah seems too young to be a student in the school, but her resemblance to Mike’s sister and her bubbly personality have him intrigued. She gradually draws him out of his shell and manages to interest him in the archives project, and more importantly, in life itself.

As their relationship grows and changes, Mike slowly becomes convinced that Sarah is more than just another student. When he discovers the shocking secret she is carrying, he sets out to give Sarah the peace that she so desparately needs.


“I told you. I don’t need anyone…”

“Everyone needs someone. Parents, for instance; everyone needs parents.”

“I’ve got no parents.”

“Everyone’s got parents.” She thought for a second. “Unless you’re an orphan.”

“I’ve got work to do. So get lost.”

“You’re not very nice.”

He scowled. “Just because I’m in a wheelchair doesn’t mean I’ve got to be nice.”


FROM THE REV. NEIL PARKER, THE OBSERVER (December, 2003). … “not everything ends with death” … a well-written and gripping book that deals realistically with the depression and emotional turmoil that follows an intense trauma. … a recommended read.

FROM PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY (September 2003). Both halves of the book (the before and after of Mike’s “bone-chilling discovery”) will engage the target audience. Mike’s inner torment echoes familiar questions – Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do children die while evil men live to ripe old age? – and his coming to terms with them is mature and thoughtful. Age 12 and up.

FROM FRANCES BRADBURN, BOOKLIST (September 15, 2003). In the tradition of Cynthia Voigt’s Izzy Willy Nilly, (1986) and Deborah Froese’s, Out of the Fire, (2002) this novel explores what happens when a teenager must adapt to a new, much more limited life, while adding a romantic ghost story to the mix. Mike is realistically angry and unlikable, but readers will easily connect with him as he absorbs Sarah’s lessons of survival and courage.

FROM JOANNE PETERS, CM MAGAZINE (Sept. 19, 2003). Highly Recommended, ***1/2 out of 4. Waiting for Sarah is a really unusual work of adolescent fiction. It’s not your average teen “problem” story; for the longest time, Mike’s disability isolates him from everyone, and his turnaround is slow, with plenty of set-backs. High school life is described with pin-point accuracy; you can hear the whirr of the overhead projector in the history teacher’s classroom and feel the boredom of yet another tedious lesson. This is a book which I really believe would appeal equally both to female and male readers; unfortunately, I think that the title would lead most guys to think that the book is a romance. Mike’s struggle is portrayed in all of its frustrating reality, and I think that most readers would appreciate the authors’ honesty. Early on, deep in self-pity, Mike remembers “the family eating together in the evenings. Rules and arguments about behaviour and chores and the Internet and TV watching. Ordinary lives that were meant to go on in an ordinary way but were now just memories.” (p. 18) Ordinary life, memories, mystery, and fate – they’re all here in this book. A great choice for senior high school fiction collections. Joanne Peters is a teacher-librarian at Kelvin High School in Winnipeg, MB.

FROM LYNNE MARIE PISANO, KLIATT (March, 2004). This moving, chilling tale of a young man’s loss and regaining of self-worth proves and excellent and worthwhile example of supernatural literature.

FROM DAVID JENKINSON, UNIVERSITY OF MANITOBA. The title and cover art of Waiting for Sarah might initially be off-putting to boys, but… [T]his wonderfully deceptive book, set in 1999/2000, initially appears to be a contemporary problem novel featuring Mike Scott… [but turns out to be] a problem novel, a fantasy, a murder mystery, and, by the time they are finished, (gasp!) a love story.