Saturday, June 18, 2005

Almost Home, by Nora Raleigh Baskin

OK, so I'm going to have to break from tradition and skimp on the plot description a bit here, because there isn't much I can give away (and even admitting that the book has a twist is giving way too much away).

At the end of the summer, Leah's father picks her up from camp and she finds out that her mother has gone California...with her sister. Now, she must try to make a home - a new home - with her father and her father's new wife Gail. But her new home is also an old home and Leah must struggle with coming to terms with what has happened and finding a space where she belongs. An emotionally precocious boy Will plays a part (but not the part you might think).

Wow. I really liked What Every Girl (except me) Knows, so I was really looking forward to this book, but this completely exceeded mny expectations. I'm used to having a good cry at the end of a book, but rarely in the middle. This was truly incredible. Rich characters, parents that are realistic, kids that are realistic. Lots of meaning, thoughts, observations. Having just published my top ten, I'm loathe to add this right away, but I have a strong feeling that I will do so someday soon.

One interesting observation about YA lit though. Usually, authors write about characters who are slightly older than the target readership. Thus, a middle school book will have a Junior High Schooler, a teen book will have a senior, and so on. This book really goes the other direction and it was quite striking. The book reads like a Teen book (I'm not sure that the average middle schooler would get the nuances), but Leah is in Middle School (she hasn't even hit puberty yet). So, the author is inviting her readers to read about someone younger than themselves. Now, I - of course - do that with every book I read here, but it is unusual in the literature overall. All of which leads me to conclude that Baskin really is a force in literature to watch.

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