Seventeen-year-old Nola is working as a waitress in a Maine resort for a summer away from home. This means she has left her 13-year-old sister, a cancer patient to whom she is credibly devoted, at home while she explores her own life. When she first meets a peer named Carly, no red flags go up, but as the summer goes on, Nola becomes acutely aware of Carly’s manipulations of others in order to acquire, chameleon-like, their hairstyles, boyfriends, even, apparently, little sisters. When Nola’s little sister shows up in Maine, it appears as though she has come at Carly’s beckoning. Nola struggles to regain control of her own feelings about the teens in Maine and her physically fragile sister’s needs. Although not all of the characters here are fully developed, Nola’s sister is well constructed and offers some good insights, sometimes in haiku and sometimes in conversation, and teens anxious for friends would be wise to recognize Carly as potentially dangerous. A compelling story of self-discovery with plenty of insights into the motivations that drive relationships. Grades 7-9. –Francisca Goldsmith
I liked this book. I really did. This is not my typical book(I feel I have been saying that a lot lately in my reviews which causes me to think of what I typically read?) I felt a connectedness with Nola despite the fact that I am no longer a teenager trying to find myself nor do I have a sibling with cancer nor do I question my surroundings. I know it sounds weird, but I felt like I did understand Nola and what she was going through. It was time for her to be someone besides the sister of the girl with cancer. She wanted to be free. She wanted her own identity. In the end I liked how she went about doing this without causing harm to herself or her family. The other aspect I really liked was how the cancer topic was strong in the novel, but it did not overwhelm the reader. You had to read between the lines to get that feeling of the burden of cancer on Nola and her sister.
I could not stand Carly. She drove me nuts, but she too was essential to the story and the path of Nola finding herself.
I think this book is perfect for middle school readers because I did not feel that there was anything too heavy for them to handle, but it still deals with heavy topics that they love like finding love, summer fun, cancer, growing up, and all the other aspects of life that come flying their way as they try to navigate the world of getting older.