My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Description: Love can be a trouble word for some people. Crazy is also a trouble word.
I should know.
You've never met anyone exactly like twelve-year-old Sarah Nelson. While most of her friends obsess over Harry Potter, she spends her time writing letters to Atticus Finch. She collects trouble words in her diary. Her best friend is a plant. And she's never known her mother, who left when Sarah was two.
Since then, Sarah and her dad have moved from one small Texas town to another, and not one has felt like home.
Everything changes when Sarah launches an investigation into her family's Big Secret. She makes unexpected new friends and has her first real crush, and instead of a "typical boring Sarah Nelson summer," this one might just turn out to be extraordinary.
My thoughts: Like the protagonist, I find joy in words, the way they roll around in my head, a great book, and the occasional light reading of a magazine. The particular article that comes to mind is one I read this week about what characteristic strong families share. The answer is a connection to their past. They tell stories about ancestors or fun anecdotes from earlier years. It is a rite of passage and a guarded tradition. My own children beg for stories of when I was a kid or when they were babies.
This book is about a girl who is coming of age, which is not so unusual, but her connections and stories are kept secret from her out of guilt, shame, and obligation to protect a mentally ill mother. Unlike an adopted child, the stories and people are present to help with the connections, they simply believe they are protecting her from the truth. How much truth can she handle and at what age?
The book starts out with an unemotional and objective recounting of what Sarah does not remember at all but is still a part of her history. When she was 2 years old, her mother drowned her in the kitchen sink then repeated the process with her twin brother. She survived somehow and has continued on under this shadow, running from this secret and allowing it to define her as it has haunted her father into bottles of Jim Beam.
Although the facts are macabre, the story is appropriately written for the audience. Sarah wants yet fears the connection. In the meantime, she finds solace in Atticus Finch and writing to him helps with her processing. She also genuinely connects to others in the human race to find that we all have our blind spots and secrets that hurt us.
I will not ruin the story but will share a tidbit learned from Atticus that Sarah internalized. Written much more poetically, courage is not necessarily a trait one has but a decision one makes to act courageous every day.
Appropriate for adolescent girls. I really enjoyed it.
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