Children’s Book Reviews
Children's Book Reviews: Past Tense
Publish February 13, 2018
Finding her mother staring into space with her hands in cold dishwater, Julie knows something is terribly wrong. With a baby brother to care for and a father working extra hours, the world tips the burden to Julie to maintain normalcy at home while her mother becomes increasingly depressed. Already struggling to keep the secret that she is in love with her best friend, Lorelei, Julie starts hanging out with Lorelei’s ex-boyfriend, Henry, who has secrets of his own.
First-time teen author Star Spider prefaces chapters with Julie’s memories of her mother, revealing a complex and nuanced relationship. These memories hint at the possibility that Julie’s mother has a long-term mental illness, but also captures the profound love the mother and daughter share. Caught up in her relationship with her mother, Julie’s view of what secrets should and should not be kept is distorted, because the need to protect her is ingrained. Spider balances the adult role Julie is forced into with the contrast of her everyday high school life as a teen. Maintaining a secret crush on her best friend isn’t easy, nor is Julie’s fear that revealing it will destroy their friendship.
Spider adds more layers to Julie’s story: an unlikely friendship, a developing sexual orientation, further secrets that must be untangled; and yet the result is neither overwhelming nor unbelievable. Instead, Julie’s growth as she wrestles with the nature and meaning of love in all areas of her life is authentic and makes for an enlightening read.
An avid promoter of Canadian teen fiction, Amy Mathers completed the Marathon of Books in 2014. The money she raised allowed the Canadian Children’s Book Centre to fund the Amy Mathers Teen Book Award. She also reviews for the Canadian Children’s Book News and writes a monthly article for the CCBC e-newsletter.
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