Tuesday, May 31, 2005

All the Living, by Claudia Mills

Karla and her brother Jamie are spending a summer at their late uncle's cottage in Maine, and Karla can't cope with all the death around her. Her brother's problems are more immediate: an abusive and bullying father who sees his son as a complete failure. Mom sits on the sidelines and tries to cheer everyone up. This being a middle school book, no one is going to go through serious emotional trauma but there is a fair amount of self-discovery and tears.

This story had tremendous potential to become something hard hitting, but Mills steps back at each point that things get heavy. And even the fairly dramatic climax comes out of nowhere and departs pretty much without having changed much in the lives of its characters. It makes for an OK read, but one wishes that Mills had put more teeth into the story.

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