Anna, from the Netherlands, is sent to spend her summer vacation in rural Pennsylvania when her parents refuse to let her join her friends for a wild week at a Spanish beach.
At 17, film enthusiast Anna is frustrated by the lack of independence her parents allow her in this ever-so-quiet, sometimes slightly meandering effort translated from Dutch. She’s amazed, therefore, that family friend Uncle York hands over the keys to a house she can live in alone in small-town Bakerton and then teaches her how to drive so that she can help out at a local gift/antiques shop. Quirky 18-year-old Daniel, his intentions unclear, immediately makes it his mission to teach her why his position as a funeral director is a “cool profession.” This makes possible a series of walk-on commentaries by a gravedigger, a hair stylist to the deceased, etc., playing off nicely against Anna’s frequent old-movie quotes, which pepper the narrative. Anna also explores her newly complicated relationship with her parents, since she’s just discovered that she was adopted. Interesting characters abound, all thoughtfully, believably sketched. A few translation inaccuracies (“there was a stairs”) may remind readers that this is a different, European take on America.
A slowly paced, heartfelt coming-of-age tale that effectively, albeit placidly explores life—and death—in small-town America. (Fiction. 13 & up)