Mona Lisa LaPierre’s academic parents are off to Russia for research, leaving the teen behind in a cabin deep in the woods of New England with her crotchety Mohegan Indian grandfather, whom she barely knows.
There is no electricity, her grandfather seems able to communicate with bears, and the lines between this world and the world of spirits are blurry to say the least. Mona passes the time wailing the blues on her trusty guitar, Rosalita. As she gradually bonds with her grandfather, she also begins to connect more deeply with the natural world and with both sides of her Native American heritage, Mohegan and Abenaki. This would be more than enough to process, both for Mona and for readers, but this summer after high school is also filled with a cold-case murder mystery, budding romance, love triangles, dysfunctional parents, family secrets, death, and supernatural occurrences. Though ambitious and inclusive of voices tragically underrepresented in teen literature, this novel regrettably fails to strike the right chord. Rather than weaving together to form a cohesive story, the various plot points and surprise turns are heaped upon one another at an inconsistent pace, and the result feels cluttered and forced.
Too many ideas and not enough focus unfortunately diminish what could have been a unique and much-needed novel exploring the lives of contemporary Native American teens. (author’s note) (Mystery. 13-17)