Overly deliberate plotting and uneven writing weigh down Roth’s debut.
Sixth-grader Sara has the potential to be a sympathetic heroine, and there’s plenty going on in her life to engender interest. She’s crushing on a cute boy in her class, disappointed to miss the school play because of illness (she had a starring role) and still sad about the death of her mother three years earlier. She’s also hurt by her father’s emotional withdrawal and yearning for a kitten. While this mix of serious and less-urgent issues is undeniably realistic, Sara’s reactions don’t vary enough to be believable, which gives the text an overall flat tone. Some of Roth’s poems use effective imagery and intriguing vocabulary to bring scenes to life. Others sound trite or forced and serve mainly to provide information necessary to push the plot along. Sara’s first-person narration captures the self-absorption typical of some middle school girls but unfortunately also prevents Roth from providing fully fleshed-out portraits of other characters or nuanced descriptions of their experiences. The brisk and happy resolution will likely please some readers, but it’s possible that others won’t have hung in long enough to reach it.
Ultimately the predictable story arc and limited character development prevent this novel in verse from channeling the charm of the eponymous fluffy kitten that appears on the cover. (Verse/fiction. 9-12)