Missing her best friend, Nina, who’s moved to New York, Cove, 12, faces the mean-girl bullies of her Martha’s Vineyard middle school alone.
Nina’s dads invite them to visit, but Cove’s mom insists they’ll never leave the island. Focused on her own spiritual path and with a new boyfriend in tow, she gives Cove’s daily struggles little attention. Tormented by girls who bark when they see her, Cove misses Nina most at school. With bullying out of control, the school assigns community service to instill compassion in students and improve the school’s image. Jonah at the used-clothing store introduces Cove to a TV reality show on which would-be fashion designers ages 12 through 17 design and sew in competition. Smitten (home’s TV-free), Cove, a talented artist, fantasizes about competing on the show in New York and seeing Nina. A nursing-home resident who once sewed for Coco Chanel agrees to teach Cove, but progress is frustratingly slow. Hanging with Jonah and dumpster-diving with new student Jack make life bearable, but only just, so Cove hatches a desperate plan. Slow to take shape, the plot’s end-loaded. While readers have to work for it, this thought-provoking tale of childhood isolation and powerlessness experienced in a socially networked world rewards the effort. Cove and her mom present white; race is not noted in the text, leaving the illustrations (not seen) to fill in those blanks.
Raising more questions than it answers, this recommended read should spark lively discussion; a good bet for an intergenerational book club. (Fiction. 8-12)