Tag Archive: Wisconsin


vanishing season

The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson

After her mother lost her job in Chicago, Maggie and her parents move to Door County, Wisconsin to a home they have inherited.  Just as they move to the peninsula, teen girls start to disappear and are found floating in the water.  Maggie misses her best friend and all of the activity of Chicago, but she is also taken in by the quiet and the beauty of Door County.  She quickly makes friends with the unusual girl next door, Pauline, who is beautiful, wealthy but also ignores both those facts and is downright childlike most of the time.  There is also Liam, a boy desperately in love with Pauline, though Pauline just wants to remain friends forever.  Maggie enters their world of canoe rides, building saunas in the woods, bonfires and marshmallows, that is interrupted as the winter comes with more deaths of teen girls.  Soon a curfew is imposed and no one is allowed to travel on their own.  Maggie can still hang out with Liam and Pauline, but the isolated peninsula begins to become even more separated from the rest of the world.  Add to this a voice in the novel that speaks of death, of being dead, and you have a haunting teen read.

Anderson’s prose is incredible.  She has written a book where it is all about isolation, winter, and death.  Yet at the same time it is rather desperately and fragilely about life too.  There is warmth, first love, beautiful friendships, and the wonder of nature.  It is a novel of contrasts, one that hints at a ghost story but is not overtaken by it.  It is a book about love, but it moves beyond that as well, turning to life and death eventually.

As I said, Anderson’s writing is beautiful.  She captures moments with a delicacy and poignancy that makes even the smallest moments of life spectacular.  Here is one example from Page 61 in the digital version of the ARC:

If I could show you the lives of the people below me – the colors of what they all feel heading into this chilling, late fall – they’d be green and purple and red, leaking out through the roofs, making invisible tracks down the roads.

She plays with perspectives in the novel.  Maggie’s story is told in third person, while the voice of the ghost, as seen in the quote above, is told in first person.  Anderson is not afraid to create a book filled with tiny pieces that come together into one full work by the end.  She writes without the need for action to carry the book forward, instead capturing a place and a time with an eye for detail and discovery.

Haunting and wildly beautiful, this quiet book is not for everyone but those who love it will love it desperately.  Appropriate for ages 14-16.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Edelweiss and HarperTeen.

one came home

One Came Home by Amy Timberlake

Georgie knows that she is the reason her sister Agatha left.  When an unidentifiable body is found with her sister’s hair color and the dress her mother sewed, everyone assumes it is Agatha.  But Georgie refuses to accept that.  She sets off to find out what happened to her sister.  In 1871 in rural Placid, Wisconsin, Georgie is forced to ask her sister’s old beau Billy to give her a horse.  She has a gun that she is an expert at using and a destination in mind, where the body was found.  It doesn’t work out the way Georgie expects since Billy insists on joining her for the trip and gives her a mule rather than a horse to ride.  The two set off arguing all the way, traveling through the debris from the largest passenger pigeon nesting in history, finding wild adventures along the way. 

Written in a lyrical voice, the prose in this book is noteworthy and lovely.  Timberlake has radiantly recreated both the society and setting of the late 1800s.  Happily, she spends less time on clothes and societal niceties and much more on spirit and gumption.  Early in the book you can see her words at work, drawing a picture of the two sisters using imagery from nature around them:

Feathers flew up with each breaking bottle. Pigeon feathers that spring were like fallen leaves in the autumn-they were everywhere, in everything. But there’s a difference between feathers and leaves. Feathers claw their way back into the sky, whereas leaves, after flying once, are content to rest on the earth. Agatha? She was a feather. She pushed higher, farther always. I suspected my constitution was more leaf than feather. I hoped I was wrong about that, though, because I wanted to be like Agatha.

Georgie is a tremendous protagonist.  She’s a natural with a rifle, looks forward to taking over the family store in their small town.  She’s not interested in boys and is far more concerned with her own future with her sister than with anything else.  She speaks with confidence and very boldly, never keeping her opinions to herself for long.  At the same time, she is also the voice of the novel, and through that she herself looks at the world in a poetic way.

Beautiful with a strong heroine, this book is a dazzling read for tweens.  Appropriate for ages 9-12. 

Reviewed from copy received from Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Front and Center

Front and Center by Catherine Murdock

Released October 19, 2009.

In this third and final book in the Dairy Queen series, DJ has returned home after caring for her injured brother Will.  Now she is back in the high school mix of homework, basketball and plenty of pressure.  Pressure from her coach to turn into a better leader and start to speak out more on court.  Pressure from the bag of offers her father has kept, filled with coaches that she is going to have to call.  Pressure from a new boyfriend and lingering thoughts of Brian.  Pressure from her brother Will to do it all perfectly and to do it now.  Luckily DJ has basketball and workouts to keep her mind from spiraling completely out of control.  But she has some big decisions to make and soon.

DJ is such a wonderful character that I am sad to see this will be her final book.  She is genuine, funny and reminds me vividly of all of the Wisconsin farm girls I knew growing up.  Murdock has created a character who is above all real, filled with doubts, and exceptional.  Even reading this as an adult, it brought up all of the tough decisions I have had to make about school and work, along with their accompanying not-good-enough feelings.  Murdock has written a book about struggling with self-doubt and the future without becoming whiny in any way. 

Murdock also excels at the characters of DJ’s family, giving them each their own motivations, logical growth of their characters, and sudden understanding.  It is a pleasure to see a series where an entire family changes together, growing stronger and more important to one another.

Highly recommended for anyone who has read the first two.  This final book is just as good as the others in the series, if not better.  I’d recommend seeking this series out and enjoying all three books right in a row if you haven’t read them yet.  A great end to a marvelous series!  Appropriate for ages 13-16.

Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

Also reviewed at Librarilly Blonde, Abby (the) Librarian, Feed Your Imagination, and Jen Robinson’s Book Page.

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