Ebb & Flow by Heather Smith

…poignant story, told in free verse, of eleven-year-old Jett. Last year, Jett and his mother had moved to a new town for a fresh start after his father went to jail. But Jett soon learned that fresh starts aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. When he befriended a boy with a difficult home life, Jett found himself in a cycle of bad decisions that culminated in the betrayal of a friend – a shameful secret he still hasn’t forgiven himself for. Will a summer spent with his unconventional grandmother help Jett find his way to redemption?

ebbIt’s clear to see how Smith’s east coast roots have inspired this heartbreaking middle grade read.  It brought me back to my many visits to Nova Scotia and hunting for sea glass.

Told in poetic form, I read about Jett’s “rotten bad year” in one sitting. I admired how sparsely-worded pages were able to cover such a wide range of serious topics: bullying, incarceration, abuse, and more. There were so many beautiful passages that I had to restrain myself from dog-earring all the pages. As a librarian, I especially loved the passage:

I said,

I only read comics.

She said,

What’s a comic if it’s not a book?

Jett’s betrayal slowly unfolds and his courage and responsibility ultimately turn this sad story into one of forgiveness and hope. Ebb & Flow has such a powerful impact that it may take some readers some time to fully process the story.

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This One Summer- Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

 

Every summer, Rose goes with her mom and dad to a lake house in Awago Beach. It’s their getaway, their refuge. Rosie’s friend Windy is always there, too, like the little sister she never had. But this summer is different. Rose’s mom and dad won’t stop fighting, and when Rose and Windy seek a distraction from the drama, they find themselves with a whole new set of problems. It’s a summer of secrets and sorrow and growing up, and it’s a good thing Rose and Windy have each other.

 

one summer

Set during summer vacation in a small town, This One Summer is a coming of age graphic novel.  Windy and Rose are growing up and on the verge of becoming teenagers.  Rather than spending time building forts, they become fascinated with older teens, and partake in gossiping, swearing, and watching horror movies to appear cool to their movie-store crush.  I was sad to see the term ‘slut’ tossed around quite a bit by Windy/Rose, even calling girls they don’t know sluts.  Sex is a topic that interests them, but mostly they fixate on what their bodies will look like, repeatedly talking about their breasts, including the last line of the book, “boobs would be cool (p. 319)”  Overall, there isn’t too much of a plot besides the increasing tension between Rose’s parents that has stemmed from a miscarriage.  Rose picks up on the tension- “I thought that things would get back to normal. I guess they sort of are. Except they’re not talking (p.300)”.  Only in the last few pages do readers find out why the water is such a trigger for Rose’s mother. I wonder what Awago Beach will have in store for Windy and Rose next summer as they continue to grow both emotionally and physically.

The whole graphic novel has wonderful art done in shadowed blues. The full spread pages were my absolute favourite, especially the underwater illustrations (p.160) and Windy’s krunking moves (p.174.). I completely enjoyed this alternative format as a treat in between lengthy novels. It’s a quick read, and easy to devour in one sitting.

 

The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen

Luke is the perfect boyfriend: handsome, kind, fun. He and Emaline have been together all through high school in Colby, the beach town where they both grew up. But now, in the summer before college, Emaline wonders if perfect is good enough.

Enter Theo, a super-ambitious outsider, a New Yorker assisting on a documentary film about a reclusive local artist. Theo’s sophisticated, exciting, and, best of all, he thinks Emaline is much too smart for Colby.

Emaline’s mostly-absentee father, too, thinks Emaline should have a bigger life, and he’s convinced that an Ivy League education is the only route to realizing her potential. Emaline is attracted to the bright future that Theo and her father promise. But she also clings to the deep roots of her loving mother, stepfather, and sisters. Can she ignore the pull of the happily familiar world of Colby?

Emaline wants the moon and more, but how can she balance where she comes from with where she’s going?

moon

Meh. I know the many Sarah Dessen fans will disagree with me, but I found The Moon and More to be just an okay read.  I much preferred What Happened to Goodbye.

Don’t expect much drama, action or cliffhangers in this book. Rather it consists mostly of mundane details of a teenager about to embark on college. Summer jobs, romantic and family relationships, and common worries about growing up are all very much explored. In that aspect, teens will be able to relate to Emaline. I on the other hand, was a little bored.

The best feature of the book was the setting of Colby. Emaline lives in the beach town of Colby that is flooded by tourists every summer. It is perfectly described and easy to image.  The subplot of the local Colby artist was an interesting element and coming from a small town, I could understand the protectiveness and cautiousness of letting ‘outsiders’ in.

 

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