Candlewick Press, 2012
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Let's start this off by saying that I had NO idea what I was getting into with this book. I saw it on a book list and it was one that I hadn't read and our school library happened to have a copy. So I checked it out. On the back it mentioned a terrible accident. Well a terrible accident could be anything. I was not at all prepared for what it was. As this was a book I was reading at school, I ended up crying through at least three different class periods' silent reading time. The good news is that my toughest class thought something was wrong with me and they were really really good that day. I didn't tell them the truth because I was just happy to get through a lesson that day!
What it's all about:
Fern's family is a mess! Her older sister, Sarah, is "taking a year off" before college (or she just didn't get into any colleges and doesn't know what to do with her life now). Her older brother, Holden, is starting high school and dating an older guy (oh yeah and he hasn't told their parents he's gay, much less that he's dating someone 4 years older than he is). Her younger brother Charlie is the baby, and he's a mess and everyone lets him be that way. Fern's mother retreats into the office at the family restaurant to meditate more and more, and her father is always embarrassing them all with crazy ideas to get more customers in to eat. And Fern? Fern is starting middle school and just kind of invisible.
So needless to say there is a lot going on in Fern's life. She and Holden have always been close, but he's pulling further away from them all. Her mom is always busy with Charlie or off meditating and leaving Fern to watch over Charlie instead.
I can't even really talk about this without giving the huge event away, so if you don't want to know, then don't read on, but you may want to at least prepare yourself. Here it is: Charlie dies. He runs away from Fern while she is watching him, he bumps his head, they all make a big fuss about him, Fern does her homework, they all go to bed, and then he doesn't wake up the next morning. WHAT?! That's what I said as I choked back sobs from behind my desk. I may have gasped out loud. I know I felt sick to my stomach an angry--just like Fern--and I desperately wanted to see my daughter. I hugged her extra tight, and woke up three times to check on her.
Now Fern is not only dealing with her family who is a mess, she's dealing with a big whole in her family as well. Her mom retreats to her room, Holden disappears to spend time with his boyfriend, and Sarah and Fern's father are trying to keep it all together. Fern is angry.
I really liked this book, but at the same I was so angry as soon as Charlie died. I felt like no one had warned me at all and that I should have been given that warning. But no one gave Fern warning. Or Fern's mother, who literally becomes another person within the span of the book (can you blame her?). I'm even crying as I write this review because I am so very angry at the loss of a little boy--even a fictionalized one.
Read the book. It's good. But it's also heart wrenching. If you're not prepared to ugly cry in front of others, then find a nice quiet place where you feel safe to sob away. And if you happen to be a teacher with a particularly tough group, choose this to read during your SSR time, or DEAR time, or whatever you call it at your school. They might be good for you that day.
Image Source: Goodreads
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