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Literature / Are You Alone on Purpose?

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Are You Alone on Purpose? is a 1994 young adult novel by Nancy Werlin.

Fourteen-year-old Alison Shandling has always hated Harry Roth, a cruel bully who makes fun of her and her autistic twin brother Adam. But a few weeks before the start of high school, Harry breaks his back in a diving accident, leaving him paraplegic. While Harry is recovering, Harry's father, Rabbi Roth, starts tutoring Adam in Hebrew, meaning Alison has to spend an hour at the Roth house every week to make sure Adam stays calm. Alison starts to get to know Harry, and the two eventually form a friendship, then romance.

Are You Alone on Purpose? contains examples of:

  • A-Cup Angst: At the beginning of the book, Alison feels inadequate next to her best friend Paulina de Silva, who is developing a lot faster than she is. Alison catches up by the end of the book.
  • Awkward Father-Son Bonding Activity: Rabbi Roth insists on playing Scrabble with Harry during Sabbath, and attempts to make awkward conversation about Adam and Alison until Harry gets bored and flips the board.
  • Food Slap: Alison flings soda in Harry's face after he insults Adam to her during lunch.
  • Freudian Excuse: Harry's cruel behavior is explained as being due to his mother's death the day before his eleventh birthday and his father's distant behavior.
  • Interrupted Intimacy: Alison and Harry are having their First Kiss when Rabbi Roth walks in on them. After Alison leaves, Rabbi Roth spends the next day avoiding the subject, until after Adam's bar mitzvah, when Harry confronts him about his lack of interest in his life.
  • Security Blanket: Alison's stuffed crab, Josephine, who was her confidante when she was a kid. She recently gave away all her other toys, but kept Josephine "as a bed decoration." Josephine still makes her feel safe, even though she's too old for stuffed animals.
  • Soap Within a Show: At the rehab center, Harry and his roommate Zee watch the soap 1010 Brookside. The two disagree on which of the female leads are the hottest - Harry prefers Anna, and Zee prefers Cecilia. When Anna, who is a secret agent, gets knocked out, tied up, and carried away, Harry relates to the feeling of helplessness.
  • Too Unhappy to Be Hungry: Alison barely eats during the last six weeks of middle school because of Harry's relentless harassment.