A young girl’s first-person narrative of her journey through grief to acceptance.
After her father’s death in an airplane accident, 12-year-old Wren is enveloped in a cloud of grief. With no body to bury, she mitigates her sadness by burying the animals she finds dead along the road. Wren’s mother retreats into anger, leaving Wren to feel abandoned by both parents. After several brief moves, the mother and daughter, both white, end up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where Wren continues the bird-watching she so loved with her father. Through a school assignment, Wren learns that Pete’s Pond, her birding locale, is slated to be destroyed to expand a landfill. She and her project partner, Theo, who’s also white, lead a protest to stop the plan. Wren wrestles with whether to compromise her values to join the popular girls at school, deciding instead to be true to herself. By the predictable but satisfying ending, Wren has grown, with the help of Theo, whose mother previously died, toward acceptance, forgiveness, and a new definition of family. While it’s preachy in parts, the maudlin is averted by Wren’s authentic voice and the inclusion of engaging characters and substantive issues, ranging from peer pressure and bullying to infidelity and environmental concerns.
Skillful characterization carries this quiet novel along. (Fiction. 9-12)