Sunday, June 10, 2018

Everything Else in the Universe

36723023Holczer, Tracy. Everything Else in the Universe
June 12th 2018 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
ARC provided by publisher at ALA Midwinter

Lucy's family has moved from Chicago to San Jose, California for her father's medical residency and to be near family. When doctors are drafted for Vietnam, he chooses not to be deferred so that he can do his part. He promises Lucy that he will return, and he does, but he has lost an arm in an explosion in the operating room. The family is just glad to have him back, and he has a prosthetic arm, but he's still having trouble transitioning. There are lots of other things going on in Lucy's life even though it is summer. Her mother has gotten a job, and has Lucy go over to her aunt and uncle's every day. There, she must deal with her cousin Gia, who is protesting the war, and her cousin Josh, who is eligible for the next draft. She also meets a new boy in the neighborhood, Milo, who is very interested in dragonflies and other insects. When the two find a helmet, a purple heart, and a family photo buried near their homes, they try to find out to whom they belong and run into problems at the local veteran's club. There are family activities and barbecues, but nothing is the same as it was before, and despite Lucy's best efforts, she cannot make life return to the way it was by herself.
Strengths: The story line with the father's acclimation to civilian life and life as an amputee after serving in Vietnam is one I have been waiting for, especially after reading Partridge's Boots on the Ground and O'Connor's Until Tomorrow, Mr. Marsworth. The large Italian family is portrayed with fondness and good attention to detail. Because this is set in California, there is a lot of tension about the war, and including Gia's philosophical predicament is a nice touch. There are a decent amount of historical details-- Grandma Miller is delightful in the way she turns herself out! The family relationships and emotions are also well done. Everyone is supportive but unsure of how to properly proceed at some times.
Weaknesses: There is a lot going on in the book, and some of my readers would struggle keeping everything straight. I wish that there had been more description of Lucy's interactions with her father, but he plays a much smaller part in the story than I had expected. I would have rather heard more about him and less about the mystery of the helmet and Milo's insects.
What I really think: I will purchase this one for our 1960s unit, but am not sure it will have as wide of an appeal as it would have had if the story had concentrated more on the father's experiences.
Ms. Yingling

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