In a first-person voice that doesn’t always quite ring true, Amy describes the events of the spring in which she begins a transformation into young adulthood.
Eighth-grader Amy is growing up in a coastal Maine village in 1973; she is shy, unpopular and self-focused. In two gradually developing relationships, she is befriended by a spunky elderly woman, Miss Cogshell, known to many as “Old Coot,” and by Craig, the tough-guy son of an abusive, alcoholic single mother. Craig is struggling in school and at home, so when he takes on care of an injured seal pup, he’s pushed to the brink and turns to Amy for help. Since it’s illegal to take in wildlife, the pair must keep “Pup” hidden while they raise him; Miss Cogshell becomes a willing participant, keeping the seal in her home while also gently reaching out to both unhappy teens. But Miss Cogshell is not well, and eventually the young pair must get their emotional support from each other, something they are at first unable to do. At times, Amy’s voice feels more authorial than authentic (“A rush of freedom outweighed the feel of coarse ground against my palms”), but debut author Strykowski gains competence as she progresses and lets Amy speak more clearly.
Well-drawn, sympathetic characters and the developing spark between Amy and Craig combine to create a pleasant, satisfying read. (Historical fiction. 10-14)