Thursday, March 14, 2019

The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James

Blake, Ashley Herring. The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James
March 26th 2019 by Little, Brown
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Sunny has had cardiomyopathy for two years, but has just been told she will have her heart transplant. The woman who has raised her, Kate, knows that she is afraid, but is supportive. Once Sunny has the surgery, Lena, her biological mother shows up. Lena was a friend of Kate's, but struggled with alcoholism after the motorcycle death of Sunny's father, and gave up custody to Kate. Kate owns a bookstore on an east coast island, hangs out with long time friend (an crush) Dave, and is over protective of Sunny. When Sunny is recuperating, she is allowed an outing to the beach. There, she meets Quinn, whose mother is a marine photographer who is staying on the island for the summer. The two quickly become fast friends and decide that they will embark on a "kissing quest" to find a boy to kiss for the first time. Sunny has fallen out with her friend Margot over a secret that Margot blabbed to members of her swim team after Sunny got sick, so she is glad to have someone to hang out with. Lena visits, and Sunny is finally able to get some information about her past. As she spends more time with Quinn, Sunny begins to realize that she would really rather kiss Quinn than a boy, but she doesn't want to lose her friendship. The physical recuperation goes slowly and hits some rough spots, and the emotional recuperation does as well, especially when it comes to Kate and Lena's relationship. Eventually, Sunny is able to be true to herself, Quinn, and even Margot, and forges a new normalcy for herself and her family.
Strengths: Aside from Pitchford's Nickel Bay Nick, I can't think of any books that deal with a child who has had a heart transplant. The medical details and plot are a nice foil for the family and relationships issues; any one of these alone could have become boring, but together, it made for an intriguing tale. The problems with Margot are realistic, as are the problems with Lena. There are more and more young readers with nontraditional families, so it's important to see this reflected in the literature. Quinn and Sunny's relationship is similar to the one in this author's Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World, and my students enjoy that book.
Weaknesses: Sunny and Quinn are both very nervous about liking girls, which lends a more YA level of angst to a middle grade story. Realistic, and liked by the target demographic more than by me. Even in my middle class, Midwestern school, students (especially the girls) seem to be completely unphased by students who identify as any manner of LGBTQ+. Still, all stories are different. I'm just old enough that I have no patience for angst in any relationships, fictional or otherwise!
What I Really Think: I will definitely purchase, and it is nice to see an LGBTQ+ story that doesn't involve heavy drinking and way more details than anyone needs to know.
Ms. Yingling

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