This poignant tale explores grief through a 15-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl, both of whom have lost infant siblings.
For 10 months after his newborn sister's death, Rakmen Cannon has grudgingly joined his mother at "dead baby club," his term for weekly bereavement support meetings in their Portland, Oregon, neighborhood. There, he recognizes his biology teacher, Leah Tatlas, and meets her preteen daughter, Jacey, who instantly grows attached to him. At the end of the school year, Leah invites Rakmen to join them on a summer trip to a remote lake cabin in Canada. Though he suspects it's a terrible idea, Rakmen reluctantly agrees to go, because his parents announce they need to work on their crumbling marriage. The dilapidated cabin leaves little exciting for Rakmen to do—and occasionally little for readers to follow, though it does provide the setting for quiet moments of introspection and friendship between sullen Rakmen and curious Jacey. The pace builds during a tense final act—an unexpectedly frightening canoe-camping trip the three of them undertake at Leah's insistence. A few plot twists seem unnecessarily harrowing, and the story's initial pace coupled with the unsettling subject matter of infant deaths may cause readers to occasionally stop and process. But Rakmen’s and Jacey's journeys to make peace with their sadness make the emotional ride worthwhile.
A quiet and memorable story of how paddling in the wilderness forces two unlikely friends to face their grief and embrace their power. (Fiction. 12-17)