From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 7 Up-Martha's boyfriend dies in the Alaskan bush the summer before her senior year. In school, she can see the pity in her classmates' eyes. Old women in town pat her on the hand. Her loving, unconventional mother and sisters use humor and affection to help her cope. Katherine, a 28-year-old Californian, buys the movie theater where Martha works, and the teen is thrilled to meet someone who doesn't know about her tragedy. Their friendship, her family's support, and the sensual pleasures and hardships of Alaskan life move the plot along as Martha struggles to reconcile her loss. In the opening sequence, she breaks into Steven's abandoned house and tries to conjure him up from the smells. Her numb sadness is palpable and sets the mood for the story. The novel is gracefully paced by the teen's fragile, careful account of his persona, their love, and the impossibly painful circumstances of his death. Though some early dialogue is cloying, the characters quickly bloom through conversation. Martha banters with her 16-year-old sister as if they were two parts of a whole. She and Katherine dish and divulge with mutual respect. When Martha quotes Steven, his charm, humor, and kindness are vivid and heartbreaking-she brings him uncannily back to life. Lion's imagery occasionally seems studied, but more often her descriptions, especially of emotion or moment, are resonant and truthful. Recommend this novel to savvy reluctant readers; it is an emotionally complex story told clearly, poignantly, and economically.-Johanna Lewis, New York Public Library
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Gr. 9-12. The author of Swollen
(2004) offers another subtly drawn, melancholy novel about a teen's acute heartache. In Homer, Alaska, Martha (Marty) has spent the summer before her senior year grieving for her boyfriend, Steven, who was killed in a camping accident. Her strong, devoted younger sisters and mother offer support (her father, who works for the Coast Guard, only passes through occasionally), and she finds a nurturing friend in Katherine, a recently arrived Californian who buys the movie theater where Marty works. Still, Marty remains haunted by her secret guilt over the truth about Steven's death. There's a slightly manipulative, teasing quality in the slow unveiling of the tragic facts. Nevertheless, Lion writes with sensitivity and depth about a girl struggling with weighty secrets and true love lost, and she effectively juxtaposes Marty's grief with lyrical descriptions of the shifting Alaskan light and the strength Marty draws from the beauty and wildness of the natural world. Teens will want to discuss the morally complex conclusion, which raises questions about accidents, crime, and punishment. Gillian EngbergCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved