SwoonReads Summary: Sometimes, going through the motions feels like all we can manage, but it takes love to truly live.
Sixteen-year-old Laney Pritzkau lives with her hippie father in Connecticut. The unexpected death of her mother two years prior maintains a hold on her. She keeps her relationship circle small, lessening the likelihood of any future loss. It’s summer, and Laney babysits the energetic twin boys across the street, hangs out at the mall and beach with her two best girlfriends, and volunteers at Harmony House, the foster care home where her father works as a counselor. She wills the days to go by so she can flip her calendar to the next week, the next month, the next year, to keep moving forward and avoid the residual sadness and anger that bubble up when she pauses to consider life without a mother. Then she meets Evan–and leans that what’s most important is what’s in this moment.
Review: This is a beautifully written novel that allows readers to grapple with complex issues. My heart ached for Laney as she longed for her mother in difficult situations, and as a future parent, I couldn’t help but appreciate the connection she had with her father. Too often, parents are put in stereotypical, negative roles in books that feature young adult characters, and I appreciated the warmth and love Laney’s father emanated. Their relationship is comparable with that of Atticus and Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird, and teachers might find it valuable to pair passages between both texts.
The language of this novel was very poetic. Often, one or two passages impact me strongly within a novel. But with this text, I was continually scribbling down lines that forced me to stop and consider aspects of friendship, love, loss, and life.
Consider the beautiful language here:
“‘When I was growing up, I lived next door to the oldest, wisest woman on earth. Her name was Sadie, and she had all the answers I could ever hope to discover. Why is the sky blue? Because God likes to paint in pastels. Why does Jason keep teasing me in front of his friends? Because Jason thinks you’re something special. Why do Mom and Dad fight? Because real love is worth the battle’” (p. 54).
Holy cow. Did that hit you straight in the heart? And on the flip side, sections of the novel made me laugh out loud, like this one:
“’Edgar Allan Poe. My ferret. He’s a tormented soul, obsessed with me, really. Won’t stay home alone. I’m his Annabel Lee’” (p. 112).
This is a book with strong literary merit that will greatly appeal to readers. I hope Macmillan considers publishing it because I’d love to have a hard copy in my hands. As a teacher, there would be many passages that I could draw upon, and more importantly, it would be well-loved by students. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the ending is stunning.
Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: Laney has great difficulty processing her grief over the loss of her mother. Loss is an incredibly difficult, intangible reality of life. Laney’s coping mechanism is that she doesn’t allow people to get close to her. She believes this will prevent her from having to experiencing these feelings again in her lifetime. It would be valuable for teachers to help students understand and learn about different coping mechanisms that humans use when they are grieving. Alternatively, teachers might have students consider where Laney is in the steps of the grieving process. I also imagine that many students would be interested in exploring and understanding Laney’s friendships. What do each of her friends offer her? Students always find their own meaning with texts, and this is certainly one that offers many ideas for students to explore.
Discussion Questions: How do Laney’s friendships differ from her relationship with Evan? Is the love that exists in a friendship different from the love that exists in an intimate relationship with a significant other?; By the end of the novel, do you feel a sense of hope for Laney? Has she completely overcome her inability to form close relationships, or do you think she still has work to do?; How does Laney’s father provide support for her? Do they cope with her mother’s death in the same way?
“Why is it that people get so excited by an opportunity to escape from reality, to cross that line from reality to fantasy? Why do they crave a temporary fix? They can hop on a cruise ship, pitch a tent, take that flight to somewhere, anywhere, in the quest to abandon reality for a short time, but to what end? Eventually, they all have to come home to their mundane existence and, in the return, find themselves feeling as though they’re missing more than before they left in the first place. And that doesn’t even take into consideration the lasting scars brought on by lost luggage, sunburn, and having to navigate airport security” (p. 10).
“‘Prove to me that your mom was right about love, that it’s possible, that it has the potential to make us better, stronger. When you find the right guy, make him believe, too'” (p. 43).
Please note: The above quotes are from the manuscript posted on www.swoonreads.com. The quotes and page numbers may change when the book is published.
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