"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. Read more...
"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.
- ISBN-13: 9780316210584
- ISBN-10: 0316210587
- Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
- Publish Date: August 2013
- Page Count: 280
- Reading Level: Ages 9-13
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2013-05-27
- Reviewer: Staff
In her middle-grade debut, Harrington revisits the family from her adult novel, Janeology, as she goes behind the scenes of a tabloid-headline story. Ten years ago, Sarah Nelson’s mother, Jane, attempted to drown Sarah and her twin brother, Simon, who didn’t survive. Now 12, Sarah has moved from town to town with her sad, alcoholic father, trying to escape media attention while her mother resides in a mental institution. Desperate to know more about her mother, but fearing insanity is genetic, Sarah monitors herself for “signs of crazy,” wondering if writing letters to Atticus Finch, confiding in her plant, and taking refuge on a tree stump in her yard qualify. She is also obsessed with word definitions; many appear in the book, accompanied by her pithy reflections. Over one watershed summer, Sarah tries to learn about being a woman from her 20-year-old neighbor, Charlotte; develops her first crush—on Charlotte’s 19-year-old brother, who shares her love of words; and struggles to figure out how to live as her mother’s daughter. Harrington skillfully portrays watchful, contemplative Sarah’s coming of age. Ages 9–up. Agent: Julia Kenny, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner Literary Agency. (Aug.)
A summer to change everything
It’s only natural that 12-year-old Sarah Nelson would look for signs that she’s going crazy. Sarah’s mother tried to drown her and her twin brother when they were 2 (only Sarah survived) and now lives in a mental institution; her academic father drowns his sorrows every night with a bottle of booze. Now that summer has arrived in Texas, she has the added worries of completing the upcoming family tree project in seventh grade and trying to find a boy to French kiss so she can keep up with her girl pals.
Summer also brings a teacher’s challenge: Write letters to a favorite book character. Sarah selects Atticus from To Kill a Mockingbird, and her correspondence becomes a way to help make sense of the world around her. Realistic but without more intensity than middle grade readers can handle, Sarah’s pitch-perfect narration captures her frustration in trying to communicate with her distant father (“He is hard, frozen ice cream and I am a weak spoon.”) and the realization that she not only wants, but also needs to meet her mother.
But life isn’t all hard ice cream. Sometimes it’s as sweet and warm as apple pie, just like the ones Sarah’s elderly neighbor shares with her. In the midst of this summer of great changes (physical and emotional alike), Sarah discovers her first taste of love with her babysitter’s younger brother, who shares her fondness for delectable vocabulary and can keep her darkest secrets.
Like Atticus, this determined girl faces her challenges with bravery. Have some tissues ready as you come to the bittersweet but never saccharine ending of Karen Harrington’s first novel for young readers. This is a story with sure signs of brilliance.