The only memories 16-year-old Toni Royce has of her mother are the scars on her skin and lingering nightmares of a vicious and painful fire.
When the orphanage where she has spent most of her life is, ironically, lost in a fire, Toni finds herself Toronto-bound, with only three pieces of paper bearing clues to her former life. Along the way, she creates a hodgepodge family of her own while searching for the truth about a woman she’s hated for as long as she can remember. This entry in the Secrets series reads like a haphazardly sewn patchwork quilt: the individual squares have great potential, but when combined, the pieces don’t quite fit. The novel simply tries to do too much. In addition to Toni’s search for her mother, Toten attempts to weave in too many secondary plotlines, diluting the intensity of Toni’s search. Additionally, Toni’s “aw shucks” naiveté is overplayed and off-putting. However, perhaps the greatest disappointment is that while the story promises to be steeped in Toronto’s 1960s music scene, the music gets lost in the muddle and all but disappears midway through. In the end, it’s a motley crew of endearing and rich secondary characters who bear the burden of readers’ engagement.
A novel that could have hit the high notes but instead falls flat. (Historical fiction. 12-16)