Penney, Mary. Eleven and Holding
June 7th 2016 by HarperCollins
ARC from Young Adult Books Central and reviewed there.
Macy is dealing with a lot of issues. She is starting middle school in the fall, and she's upset that her best friend, Twee, won't be with her because she's only in the fifth grade. Her Nana has recently passed away, and her business, a coffee cafe, has been sold to Chuck, whom Macy dislikes even though he gives her free coffee once a week. Most importantly, her father is back from fighting in the military, but hasn't come home because he is working on a very important "secret project". Macy is concerned that her mother, a parole officer, is going to divorce him and marry Chuck. Not wanting to celebrate her 12th birthday until she is reunited with her father, Macy decides to try to visit him. In order to get the funding to do so, she and Twee try to find the dog of an older woman, Ginger, who crashes her motorcycle into the cafe. Aided by Switch, a boy who keeps running away from foster homes, Macy manages to make her way to where her father is, but finds out the real reason why he isn't coming home, as well as secrets about Ginger, Chuck and Switch.
It is difficult to find stories that center around military families, but it's an important topic, and it would be helpful to have more titles about this. While Macy's mother doesn't deal honestly with her about what is wrong with her father, her mother is still supportive and understanding about Macy not wanting to celebrate her birthday. The topic of dementia in the elderly is also addressed, with Ginger's insistence that her dog has run away turning out to be part of her increasing failure to understand current events. There is also a nice touch about the relationship between Ginger and Chuck.
The adventure of traveling to see her father includes some poor choices, but nothing overly dangerous. Switch makes sure that he tells Ginger they are borrowing her motorcycle, and the distance being traveled isn't too far. Macy attempts to watch out for her own safety when she is at the bus station, and understands that she shouldn't be making the trip.
Readers who enjoy books with children who have difficulties, such as Hour of the Bees, Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer, and Ms. Bixby's Last Day will find Macy's struggles and adventures interesting and compelling.
That said, I don't think I will buy this one. A little bit young and naive for my readers, and I don't have anyone asking for sad books.
Springstubb, Tricia. Every Single Second.
June 7th 2016 by Balzer + Bray
ARC from Young Adult Books Central and reviewed there.
Nella and Angela are best friends who attend a Catholic school in a largely urban Italian neighborhood. They both have struggles with their families-- Nella has a passel of younger brothers, a harried mother, and a father who is a caretaker for the local cemetery and seems to have a secret sadness. Angela's father's problems are more apparent, as he was in the army and struggles with PSTD, which makes it hard to keep a job. Angela's mother leaves because of his tirades, and Angela depends on her older brother, Anthony, to help her out. Nella also has a friend who is a transplant to the neighborhood-- Clem, whose parents are professors at a nearby university. When their Catholic school closes down, the girls aren't sure where they will attend next year, and apply to a magnet school. Then a horrible thing occurs. Anthony, who has graduated and is working as a security guard, shoots a black man who was in a car accident and alarmed neighborhood people by knocking on their doors in the middle of the night. At the same time, Nella's great grandmother has a stroke, and everything falls apart for everyone. Tempers run high in the neighborhood, and both Nella and Angela's families struggle to keep things together.
This was a brilliant depiction of a neighborhood and supportive neighbors, something that Springstubb does particularly well in What Happened on Fox Street, Moonpenny Island, and Cody and the Fountain of Happiness. The importance of the Catholic church and the school, the local businesses that attract tourists, and the neighbors who know generations' worth of secrets may not be something that all readers have experienced. There are very few books that have characters who are in Catholic schools, but there must be many readers who would appreciate reading about this.
Angela and Nella are great friends who really are as close as sisters. Their falling out is very realistic, as is Nella's attraction to the more worldly and uncomplicated Clem. When Angela needs her, however, Nella is quick to stay by her side, even if it means missing a once in a lifetime opportunity with Clem.
The topics of race relations and difficulties with the police is a timely one, and Springstubb manages to make both sides seem sympathetic, which is no easy task.
Readers who enjoy books with problematic parents and grandparents, such as The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z, Silhouetted by the Blue, and Eleven and Holding will enjoy this beautifully descriptive and layered novel about family, loyalty, and secrets.
I was SO intrigued by the description of the neighborhood that I might have purchased this, but the statue in the park who talks to us in some chapters was strange, and it was difficult to follow the story because time did not elapse in a linear fashion, which was confusing. Probably will not purchase, although I do love the Cody series.