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Nantucket Blue Hardcover – May 7, 2013
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From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-Cricket Thompson, 17, is elated to be invited to her friend Jules's home on Nantucket for the summer. She adores Jules's family, who have been a sanctuary for her since her parents' divorce. The cherry on top is that Cricket's crush, Jay, will also be on the island. An unexpected tragedy, however, brings Cricket's idyllic plans to an abrupt end. Determined to be available for Jules in the aftermath of her mother's death, Cricket finds a job on Nantucket as a chambermaid at an inn. Jules, however, is aloof and unresponsive; Cricket is left to fend for herself. The teen's summer of independence leads her to an internship with a journalist, a friendship with a feisty Irish fellow-chambermaid, revelations about her mother, and an unexpected romance. Howland captures the delicious summery flavor of Nantucket beautifully. Readers with an aversion to an overly sweet romantic story will find themselves pleasantly surprised with "real" language, humorous quirks in characters, and some interesting perspectives and angles. The story is paced well: slow enough to savor, yet not so tedious as to become monotonous. Minor characters appear, add a bit of color, and then vanish appropriately-quite reflective of real life as it unfolds. Cricket's experiences give her a route to a new sense of confidence, and her story is told in a way that is both engaging and alluring. Definitely a standout novel in its genre.-Corrina Austin, Locke's Public School, St. Thomas, Ontario, Canadaα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Crickets summer holds such promise: staying with best friend, Jules, on Nantucket; seeing too-good-to-be-true Jay every day; and, of course, sunbathing in a bikini. But when Jules’ mother dies unexpectedly, the summer offer is rescinded and Jules distances herself from her friend. But Cricket heads to Nantucket anyway and takes a job as a chambermaid (“It sounded like a job from another century, like a charwoman”) and settles into a daily rhythm of cleaning toilets, avoiding Jules and Jay (she offended him), and interning for a journalist. As with the best summer romances, Cricket falls for someone unexpected and totally off-limits—which only amps up the crackling sexual tension. Cricket is a smart, driven character, and despite having plenty of issues to work through the summer before senior year, she’s on the path to self-awareness. Nice descriptions of Nantucket, too. Grades 9-12. --Ann Kelley
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I didn't expect to connect to the narrator as much as I did. After all, Cricket is an athletic teen with a fun name. I'm a klutzy thirtysomething with one of the "most common names from 1978". However, Howland gives us a richly developed contemporary teen... not a stereotype, and not an adult's take on "kids these days". Howland, herself a high school teacher, brought to life a character who fits in to today's world. I've taught many books about teens, and my students often comment that the authors are out of touch, and that the young characters are caricatures. This is not the case with Cricket. I can see and hear her; I can imagine her sitting in my classroom. And though she is today's teen, she has timeless traits that will resonate with adult readers. She's got a strong moral compass, and a slew of very real insecurities that make her even more relatable. Of her best friend, Cricket says, "It was Jules who made me cool. I'd been just a middle-of-the-pack girl before Jules. It was she who told me I was pretty, who convinced me to grow out my hair and cut my bangs and taught me about plucking my eyebrows and what a big difference the right pair of jeans could make." I found myself nodding and picturing my high school best friend as I read this passage. I'm eager to share this book with my students, because Cricket describes her family drama, friendships, and young love in the most human terms. However, I would feel completely comfortable reading this book aloud to my students (or my grandmother) because Howland manages to rouse emotions without going over the top with the cheap tricks that make English teachers (and grandmas) blush.
The minor characters, along with the setting details, rounded out this book, making it much more than a story. As Emily Dickinson, the poet whom Cricket must study during her summer, wrote: "There is no frigate like a book." I encourage you to break out your boat shoes and hop on board Nantucket Blue.