A muted fairy-tale–like story about two 12-year-old girls who spend their summer days at an abandoned mini-golf course.
Neither Lydia nor Nell feels loved or appreciated at home; perhaps because of this, they are best friends and each other’s support system. When Lydia’s cold, self-involved mother has a tiff with Nell’s moody, perpetually dissatisfied mother, she forbids Lydia to see Nell. Nell takes action, faking summer programs targeted to appeal to their mothers for both of them: an environmental art camp for Lydia and summer school for her (a psychologically revealing move, as Nell is a straight-A student, something her mother doesn’t know and wouldn’t be pleased about). Free from parental eyes, the girls decide to spend their days in a place that has always had great emotional resonance for Nell, an abandoned golf and tennis club, complete with a fanciful putt-putt course, and the real meat of the story—Nell’s emotional strengthening—begins. Despite a clear plot, the book has a dreamlike quality, and Nell’s evolving feelings are so nuanced that it’s sometimes difficult to get a handle on what the author is trying to convey. The story ends on a hopeful note; Nell’s new perspective lessens her mother’s poisonous power, and she learns that it’s possible to have two families, “the one you’re born with and the one you make yourself.”
A satisfying psychological journey. (Fiction. 10-15)