How can kids who are dealing with their own grief help other kids with similar problems?
When Abby’s dad makes her join him at a two-day grief retreat, she wears her soccer cleats as a form of protest. Her mother died of heart disease just two months ago, and Abby doesn’t feel like sharing the experience with anyone. But once she’s there, she finds herself opening up a bit, especially to another girl, Felicia, who lost both her parents at the same time in a snowmobiling accident. If Felicia can survive losing both parents, surely Abby can be brave about losing one? Abby’s narration alternates with Christopher’s; his father died two years ago, and he really doesn’t want to talk about it. But as the group gets closer, they discover that not all is as it seems. Can the shaky common ground they’ve worked to develop withstand an emotional earthquake? Or two? At times reading like a manual in how to express feelings of grief, this book sometimes stretches awkwardly in its attempt to blend a compelling narrative with dialogue that might prove useful to someone struggling to deal with a death. Even the plot twists feel carefully inserted for a higher therapeutic purpose. The cast is largely white, but some French-Canadian characters add diversity, as do a teen with two moms and a kid whose parents emigrated from Chile.
Useful—but purpose trumps art. (Fiction. 10-14)