In this evocative homage to Coney Island, the “Playground of the World,” a 16-year-old girl searches for clues about the mother she barely remembers.
Upon their grandfather’s death, Jane and Marcus Dryden and their father move into their mother’s childhood home on Coney Island. Jane soon discovers that her mother, Clementine Porcelli, the daughter of two carnies, founded the still-active Dreamland Social Club at Coney Island High School. She sets out to learn more about Clementine and the mysterious club. With the help of an old set of keys and a tattooed musician named Leo, she unlocks the various haunts of her mother’s youth and finds the sense of adventure she lost when her mother died. Along the way, Jane realizes that “normal” is a matter of perspective and gains insight into the complicated and contentious history of the town’s periods of growth and decline. Altebrando provides exceptional depth in both the setting and the motley cast of Coney Islanders, teen and adult, living and dead. Occasionally breaking the third-person narrative with Jane’s memories of her mother, the author breathes life into the long-dead Clementine, while weaving in the attractions of Coney Island’s fabled past.
The result is a memorable tale of personal growth and acceptance that will make teens eager to join a Dreamland Social Club of their own. (author’s note) (Fiction. 14 & up)