4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Vibrant characters, great writing, but I had one big problem...,
This review is from: Summer of the Gypsy Moths (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Program (What's this?)I am a big fan of this author, having steered many a young third grader to her very well done Clementine series. In Summer of the Gypsy Moths she targets a slightly older audience with her story of two eleven year old girls and their summer on Cape Cod. There is much to enjoy in this novel, and young readers will delight in Pennypacker's well drawn characters, and will no doubt feel that they are vacationing on the cape right along with Stella and Angel as they face the most difficult summer of their lives.
The single thing that prevents me from giving this book five stars is unfortunately the single most important event in the book, and it occurs pretty early on. Angel and Stella are living with Louise, an elderly woman who has taken both of them in as foster children. Angel's parents are dead and Stella is actually Louise's great niece. Stella is living with her while her mom struggles with some issues of her own. Louise dies of an apparent heart attack, and instead of calling the authorities, the girls decide to bury her in the backyard. Angel is portrayed as a hardened veteran of the foster system, and while I could conceivably imagine her doing something like this, it just never worked for me that Stella went along with it. It made it very difficult to buy into the rest of the story. The author tries to provide some motivations behind the girl's actions, but it never made sense to me, and the scenes of the girls being so cavalier around a dead body, spraying it with febreeze to control the smell, moving it to the garden in the recliner, and the descriptions of flies, etc.. were off putting amidst this story of friendship and family.
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Stella and Angel are both great characters, and the author does a fantastic job of portraying their developing friendship. They are each carrying so much baggage and so much hurt, that seeing them come together as friends was a great testament to resilience, strength, and the power of friendship. Stella's narrative voice is authentic and true, from her steadfast desire for routine and stability, to the movies that play in her head as she dreams of a perfect future for herself and her mother. Watching Angel gradually thaw and lose the chip on her soldier as she was faced with Stella's unrelenting care made for a fun read.
This is a very well written story with memorable characters and a setting that was vivid and well drawn. My problems with a key plot point dampened my enjoyment of the story, and I can't help but wish that the "tragic event" mentioned in the product description had been handled a bit differently. Motivations remained unclear and I wonder if young readers will be as skeptical and confused as I was about Stella's willingness to take such a drastic step. Only a marginal recommend.