Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Nancy Paulsen/Penguin, May, 2019 269 pages
A pivotal summer in the life of Delsie, who lives with her grandmother on the shores of Cape Cod. Delsie's mother has left her as a baby and she is feeling particularly bereft as she swings into adolescence. Her two best school friends are performing in a local production of Annie and have no time to hang-out. Luckily, Delsie's summer friend Brandy returns, only to have grown more sophisticated, leaving Delsie behind. Brandy begins to spend time with mean girl Tressa and loses her voice as Delsie gets bullied. A strange new boy, Ronan, moves to town with troubles of his own and he and Delsie begin to spend time together. Delsie keeps busy during the long summer days tracking the weather, exploring the beach wildlife, playing Monopoly with Ronan, missing her recently deceased grandfather and trying to get to the truth about her missing mother. Neighbors become family, unexpected friendship blooms and a surprise pet brings Delsie joy and comfort. Delsie's life does not magically change, but by summer's end she sees it differently and learns to appreciate what she does have, instead of missing what she doesn't.
Hunt, popular author of middle-grade problem novels One for the Murphy's and Fish in a Tree explores a trend in our society of children being raised by grandparents. In Delsie's case it is because of addiction, but I see more and more such families every year in my library. Non-traditional families are everywhere and kids growing up in them need to see themselves represented in books. Hunt demonstrates the power of community in raising our children and gives Delsie other functional adults to turn to when she feels as if Grandma doesn't understand. Hunt also explores what it means to be a friend and to find people who build you up, not tear you down. Delsie eventually lets go of the friendship with Brandy and no longer allows Tressa have power over her. She mourns the friendship, yet moves on in healthy ways with different people. Throughout the book Delsie also learns to see beyond herself and discovers empathy, as well as the power of forgiveness. Though relatively quiet, kids will enjoy Delsie's story and stick with it to the end. This genre is popular right now and the book will find a ready-made audience. The chapters are short and it reads fast, making it a perfect choice for summer. I was expecting a Cinderella ending, but that does not happen. Instead Delsie sees her life differently and learns to appreciate what she has. Readers will walk away learning to embrace the differences in others that makes them special and maybe see their own lives with a positive spin.