A young girl learns important lessons about family and friendship in debut author Randolph’s (What Happened to Tasha Blue?, 2013, etc.) coming-of-age novel.
Life seems to be full of disappointments for Rosa. First, her cousin Max comes to live with the family, and Rosa must adjust to his strange, silent presence in her home. Soon after, her friend Jeannie moves away, taking her beloved cat with her and leaving Rosa struggling to make new friends. Then there are her family’s financial troubles. Money is tight, and her father is dealing with career disappointments, especially after he struggles to get his book published and find a stable form of employment. With no television to distract her, Rosa begins to spend increasing amounts of time at the library, where her father’s gentle presence is her only protection against the gaze of the librarian, who disapproves of Rosa’s book choices. As reality becomes increasingly unglamorous, Rosa finds solace in books like The Secret Garden, which offer a way into the kind of world she wishes to inhabit. What books can’t offer, however, is a friend, and in spite of her efforts to befriend Patsy, a schoolmate whom she once disliked, Rosa feels as lonely as her father’s flower garden, which has been left to wilt due to the family’s financial troubles. All is not lost, however—the family manages to keep a tomato crop growing, and when a tall boy named Harry and his funny looking dog show up in the garden, an incredible friendship just might be in bloom. The plot meanders until Rosa meets Harry midway through the book; readers who identify with Rosa’s struggles will be happy to amble along, but those who crave action will be frustrated. As she grows older, the plot grows darker, and her character slowly matures. Rosa is a role model in her own right with her quiet intelligence and reluctance to conform, and readers may find a kindred spirit in her quiet resilience and everyday struggles.
Slow-paced but perceptive.