Dana Alison Levy
Delacourt, 2017 315 pages
Twelve-year-old Sarah has decided to reinvent herself, along with her two best friends, over the summer, until one of her two moms pulls a sneak attack. Mom has won a writing contest and the whole family will be taking a train ride across America stopping at many major cities and sites. So, Sara packs her journal, list for improvement, and tween angst and boards an Amtrack train, along with her moms, her two sisters, and her older sister's hippy boyfriend. Another family has also won the contest and is traveling along with them, complete with a son Sara's age. Written primarily in the format of Sara's journal entries, writer mom's insights, notes from the boy to Sarah, excepts from the older sister's diary, and postcards from the pesky older sister also help to tell the story. The two families travel around the country having adventures, some hilarious, most embarrassing and Sara, though still working through some tween angst, finds a sense of who she is and what direction she is heading towards. A sad event towards the end of the journey brings both families close together and shows them all what is most important in this life. Will Mom turn the adventure into a book humiliating the whole family? Will the boy, Travis, finally wear Sara down by his infectious personality and good cheer? Will the older sister drop out of school to become a full-time environmental activist? Will Sara's blue ear ever return to normal? These and other questions will all be answered within the 315 pages of this original novel.
Levy, of the Family Fletcher fame, takes her signature humor and applies it to a cross-country family rail adventure. Many kids are train enthusiasts and I, myself, have always harbored a secret desire to travel cross country by train, so I think the overall concept is a winner. Combine that with a funny family story and a non-traditional format with interesting characters and you have a kid-pleasing selection. Readers will learn interesting fun-facts about many cities and locals as we travel with the two families across the US. This book is not solely a fun travel log, it does have a plot and exhibits much character growth from many of the characters, but primarily Sara. Levy nails the voice of the twelve-year-old heroine and we truly experience this crazy adventure through her eyes. Themes such as finding your true self, the value of an education, the importance of social activism and making the world better, respecting each other and appreciating differences are all demonstrated within the pages. Much like a meandering cross country train ride, the book goes on a bit too long, but the humor and hijinxs keep it from getting boring. Because we are reading Sara's story and she is a bit angst-y, this book will appeal more to girls than boys. Any story that features a life-sized cutout of Elvis is okay in my book, making This Would Make a Good Story Someday a recommended read. Take this title with you on your next summer family vacation for a light and entertaining read.