A year after losing two family members, a girl spends the summer in a small town with a Shakespeare festival.
Mom buys a summer house for herself, 12-year-old Cedar, and 8-year-old Miles in Iron Creek, where Mom grew up. It’s been a year since a drunk driver killed Cedar’s father and other little brother, Ben. As Cedar gets a job selling concessions at the Shakespeare festival, makes a friend named Leo, and finds herself and Miles obsessed with a morbid soap-opera arc on TV, Condie touches everything lightly but deftly with the family’s grief. Leo and Cedar research—and give unauthorized tours about—a long-dead, famous actress from the town; Cedar’s pulled by that research because she knows, now, that things can disappear forever. Ben was disabled (maybe autistic), and their relationship was sometimes difficult. Her relationship with Miles is stolid and understatedly touching. Details are careful and never extraneous; there’s a reason it matters, at a certain moment, that “the milk was perfectly cold and the bananas not too ripe” in a bowl of cereal. Despite indicating that Cedar bonds with Leo because they’re both outsiders—she as a biracial Chinese-American, he for vaguer reasons—an explanation for their friendship isn’t necessary. Although Cedar's narration as a character of color is largely convincing, white is still the default for other characters unless otherwise specified. There’s no monumental grief breakthrough, nor should there be: this is the realistic going on, day by day, after bereavement.
Honest, lovely, and sad. (Fiction. 10-13)