A pair of not-yet-teenagers finds common ground searching for their personal music in New Jersey’s Pinelands.
Pop culture, Pinelands’ folklore, the power of music and the short-lived nature of secrets are the ingredients of this satisfying story, told by an omniscient narrator. According to her loving parents, the scrubby pine trees sang when Cecilia was born. Now nearly 11, awkward and out of sync with classmates, she searches the woods for that song. When a new boy comes to stay with the owner of her small town’s only restaurant, she learns his secret and enlists his help. Aaron is actually superstar musician Elvis Ruby, hiding out after freezing on national television during what was supposed to be his winning performance on the TweenStar reality show. Aaron truly is a musical talent with star qualities, straining to pass as an ordinary kid; Cecilia can’t carry or recognize a tune and has no rhythm, but she, too, would like to be more like the other young people she knows. No secret can be kept forever, but before Wares Grove is overwhelmed with paparazzi looking for Elvis, there is time for both of these appealing preteens to become more comfortable in their own skins. That this author knows and loves this part of her state is clear.
Her audience will eat it up. (Fiction. 9-12)