Tuesday, July 08, 2008



by Jerry Spinelli.

This latest book by multi-award-winner Spinelli hits some of the same notes as his other big titles, but somehow, I felt missed by a bit.

As with many of his stories, his characters are damaged - David has lost his mother and is both angry and trying to find a way to get her back, while Primrose has no father and a mother she is embarrassed and angry about. The two find each other and develop a kind of strange relationship, each angering and needling the other, each easily offended, yet somehow needing someone. They come together and apart often, according to their latest level of hurt, and in the end, take a journey together that heals in some ways, but not as much as the homecoming.

I like the way he gives his characters realistic responses, and I found that the prickliness of the two felt right, like them just bonding happily would have been false, and I am always happy to see the happyish ending, where things are not all sunshine and roses yet, but where you can see everyone moving towards a better future. I think he handles these things well, and enjoy them, even if they are beginning to seem like what he always does.

So what did I think missed? I think I found the book a bit disjointed in the writing, making it harder for me to get into, like the author was trying to be clever by making us guess what was going on for a while before revealing things. Perhaps this is meant to draw the reader in, but I found it more of an obstacle than a compelling lure.

And I think there were some things that seemed like they were supposed to be significant in some way that were left untouched in the end - like the eggs. Yes, they were a theme, present in the opening egg hunt scene, in descriptions of the sun and its rising, in the egging of Primrose's room, and in the fragility of the characters, though this is not pointed out directly. But what was with the egging? It is clear that it is part of her life as an outcast, but is never really addressed, which I think would have been helpful.

Overall, it's fine, and fans of Spinelli will probably not be disappointed, but I just felt it wasn't his best. Instead? I loved Crash, would recommend Maniac Magee, of course, and found Loser an interesting study.

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This was disappointing, as was the new Smiles to Go. Middle school students really never ask for quirky dysfunctional characters, but so many authors like to write about them.
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