HarperCollins, 2017 342 pages
Ethan and his family move from Boston to coastal Georgia to escape a tragedy. His best friend, Kacey, fell from a tree the previous winter and died and Ethan feels responsible. He has not been able to get his life back on track and keeps running away. This move is his parent's last ditch attempt to try to find him some peace, except it has disturbed his older brother's life, resulting in a loss of relationship. They move in with an estranged Grandpa, who though prickly and private, Ethan starts to bond with. This is especially true after Grandpa Ike starts teaching him to drive, even though he is only twelve. An unlikely friendship develops between Ethan and an unusual classmate named Coralee, who has many outrageous tales to tell. Are they all true or does Coralee make stuff up? And what is her history? Ethan and his new friend explore a deserted house only to encounter a mysterious figure and find a treasure. Could the figure be a ghost? Everyone has secrets in this story, which are all revealed as the tale slowly unfolds. The tale culminates with a deadly hurricane, which ties all of the loose plot threads together in a satisfying conclusion.
Debut novelist, Standish, has penned one of my favorite books of the year. It is heartfelt, yet not overly sentimental, and has a great plot. Primarily a book about grieving, healing, and secrets, the author adds a dash of mystery to keep the reader turning pages. We all want to know what the history behind Coralee is, as well as the identity of the mysterious lady. Is she a ghost? Beyond the layers of realistic fiction/healing and creepy suspense, lies an environmental message demonstrated by a plot line concerning a family of Red Wolves. The author adds more factual information about Red Wolves in the back of the volume to encourage kids to learn more and to get involved. My only criticism is that this book felt a little long, yet it reads quickly with short, labeled chapters. I had a hard time putting it down once I started and I was really curious to find out the truth behind what all of the characters seemed to be hiding. Everyone in this book is hiding something, including our narrator, which will help readers to maybe look beyond the appearance of the unpleasant person in their class, not knowing what they carry with them. All of the characters reveal their secrets and find peace by book's end. Much like the destruction left after the hurricane, they all have finally faced their problems and will now start to rebuild their lives.