In this middle-grade series starter, four friends embark on a challenging summer of training to save lives.
Thirteen-year-old Jenna Bowers and
her family have deep roots on the Massachusetts cape, and water has always
played a big role in her life. She dreams of winning an Olympic swimming
medal, but although she relishes “the relaxation of the pace and rhythm, the
feeling of power as I slice through the water,” a lifetime of emphasis on
times, stats, and drills has dimmed her passion for the sport. Still, she’s
intrigued by a poster announcing tryouts for the prestigious junior lifeguard
crew—and by the handsome young man pinning it up. Her former babysitter, Molly
Cruise, was a lifeguard, and she made the job look like fun. Could becoming a
lifeguard herself be the very thing Jenna needs to reignite her motivation?
With the help of her coach and, more reluctantly, her parents, she decides to
try out, and she convinces her best friends, Piper Janssens, Selena Diaz, and
Ziggy Bloom, to vie for slots too. Although one might expect the outcome of the
test to be a foregone conclusion, Carey (The Callahan Cousins: Keeping Cool,
2015) delivers believable surprises. She vividly renders scenes depicting Jenna
in the water and deftly handles the often tense dynamic between the town’s
year-round residents and its summer incomers. She makes sure that all the girls
are distinct characters, as well: Ziggy’s family lives close to the land,
seemingly without any income; Selena’s are the Ecuadorian caretakers at one of
the large estates; and Piper’s divorced parents work out of state, so she lives
with her grandmother and tends horses. The girls’ friendship feels authentic,
and their easily expressed affection and sensitivity to one another’s foibles
should inspire readers. Carey also emphasizes the hard work involved in
lifeguard training. This first installment plants numerous seeds for future
stories, including the arrival of the glamorous, jet-setting Frankel sisters; a
mystery surrounding Ziggy’s grandparents; and the jealousies that arise as the
girls vie for the attentions of attractive boys on the junior lifeguard squad.
An enjoyable start to a potentially engaging
series for tweens.