by Kevin Henkes
This one didn\’t work for me. I picked it up on a whim at the library sale- the cover (which seems to feature someone standing at the water\’s edge near some carp suffering from ammonia burns) intrigued me, plus the flyleaf description which mentioned a shared secret that connected two characters.
The main one is twelve-year-old Martha. She\’s going on summer vacation with her family, to visit their grandmother at the beach. One of her classmates, Olive, had recently died in an accident on her bicycle. Olive\’s mother gave Martha a page from her daughter\’s journal where she\’d written that she wished Martha was her friend… Martha wonders a lot about those words. On the vacation she gets to know her grandmother better. She\’s frequently annoyed at her parents and her older brother, and is often left in charge of her little sister. She finds her feelings changed towards the family of boys next door- one of them pretends to like her in order to play a trick on her. He leads her on enough to get her to kiss him on film, which is hugely embarrassing. Martha wants to become a writer, and wishes to make a nice gesture towards Olive\’s mother.
But the secret between the two girls… ? It never materialized- either I missed it when I got bored and started skimming, or the flyleaf blurb was erroneous. The writing style felt really dull, and the extreme brevity of the chapters didn\’t help in this case (some less than a page long). The characters were convincing enough, but the descriptions about them and the events were so bland. I kept expecting more of a connection to come up between Martha and her lost classmate Olive, in fact I read through to the end just to see if there was some big reveal. Nope.
I was really surprised this one got onto a banned books list. Because it has some swear words (I hardly noticed them) and one time the older brother remarks to Martha that their parents\’ flirtatious behavior in the morning indicates they\’d just had sex. That felt oddly out of place, but there was no more to it.
Rating: 1/5 217 pages, 2003