A debut YA novel that grapples with a slew of difficult issues, including grief, stepfamilies, loneliness and first love.
Sixteen-year-old Krista is having a hard time. She’s still grieving the recent death of her mother when her father’s girlfriend, Marie, moves into their home, and Krista feels like there’s no one she can talk to about her sadness. To make matters worse, her best friend, Lyla, is heading to Maine to spend time with her grandparents. As the novel unfolds, Krista feels pressure from the people around her to resume a normal life; her father wants her to find an activity to occupy her summer, and her neighbor encourages her to return to therapy. However, Krista doesn’t feel ready to be “normal” again; she’d rather shoplift, spend time in her tent on the roof, and sit in her car watching a mysterious house. Just when things start to feel too hard for her to bear, she meets Jake, the cute sales associate at a store where she shoplifts, and her father informs her that her grandfather, a Hungarian Holocaust survivor who lives in Venezuela, is coming to town for a visit. With these new developments, Krista begins to open up and embrace life again, and she gains a greater understanding of her family’s past and what she has to look forward to in life. Berla does an outstanding job of portraying the many issues teenagers grapple with, including first relationships, loss, alienation and low self-esteem. The book’s subject matter is relevant and relatable, and its plot is suspenseful and compelling, with a few important twists and turns at the end. Berla’s prose is beautiful and poignant, with elegant, effective metaphors; for example, Krista’s grandfather tries to explain to her how to rebuild her life after loss by using a metaphor of soup. A mixture of salt and water isn’t good to drink, he says, but when you “add juices from carrots and tomatoes and some other vegetables...the broth of the chicken and maybe some cream,” then “[y]ou can drink a whole bowl of it….Keep adding to your life—a little bit this, a little bit that. The salt is still there, but one day you won’t notice.”
A moving, mysterious coming-of-age story.