Thursday, March 05, 2020

Fly Back, Agnes

Atkinson, Elizabeth. Fly Back, Agnes.
March 3rd 2020 by Carolrhoda Books
Copy provided by the publisher

Agnes does not want to spend the summer in Kansas with her mother, her mother's artist boyfriend, and his annoying young son. She's still angry about her parents' divorce, and wants to spend more time with her father, who is working on his PhD in music and lives in a dormitory room at the college where he teaches. When Agnes finds out he is renting a house for the summer, she lies to her mother and says that her father really wants her to be with him, and she is concerned about his health. Distracted by the pressure of cleaning the house so the renters can move in, the mother agrees. Soon, Agnes is settling in, a bit miffed that her father intends to spend most of his time finishing his dissertation. She sets off to bike around the area, and comes across a small store. There, she introduces herself to a girl working at the counter as Chloe, and claims that her parents are very busy professionals, and she herself is an actress and model. She gets along well with Stella, as well as her grandmother, Birdie, and toddler Wyatt. Later, Agnes meets Fin and Harriet, who live nearby and run a raptor rehab center. As the summer continues, Agnes has to spend time with the daughter of one of her father's colleagues, Dot, who is quirky and not really someone with whom Agnes wants to spend time. Agnes continues to hang out with Stella and Fin, and finds out serious secrets about both of their lives. She continues her lies about her identity until a series of events brings them to light. Can Agnes make things right with her new friends as well as her mother and father?
Strengths: I think that everyone has entertained the idea of being someone else. Everyone has a name in their pocket for their secret identity, right? I love the idea that Agnes really thinks she can keep her lives separate, and she is actually successful at it for a long time. The secrets that Fin and Stella have are rather serious ones, but Agnes handles them with understanding and compassion. She is a little less generous with her parents' problems, but that is typical to this age. Balancing new step siblings and new partners for parents is something many young readers have to do. The raptor rehab center adds a nice layer to the story, and Dot serves as a moral compass for Agnes' lies. For those who are interested in stories that also include mentions of having a period for the first time, this is a concern for Agnes; her mother might not be living with her, but is still trying to prepare her.
Weaknesses: The fact that Stella is keeping from Agnes makes for a compelling story, but the age difference between the two made me wonder if they would be friends in real life.
What I really think: This is a solid choice for readers who like summer adventures in books like Stewart's The Summer of Bad Ideas, St. Antoine's Three Bird Summer, Greenwald's Welcome to Dog Beach, Hilmo's Skies Like These or Beil's Summer at Forsaken Lake.   
Ms. Yingling

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