Friday, 3 June 2016

Mailbox by Nancy Freund

ReviewerJJ Marsh

What we thought: The tagline on this book says ‘A Scattershot Novel of Racing, Dares and Danger, Occasional Nakedness, and Faith’. That and the scuffed Converse trainers on the cover might lead you to think you were in for a teen romance. However, there is a great deal more to this book. Sandy Drue is thirteen and has just moved with her family to a small town in the USA.

In a series of short vignettes, she tries to make sense of the world through her observations and life lessons, which are by turns funny, perceptive, thought-provoking, sad, intense and unnerving. There’s nothing saccharine about this inbetweener’s view of the world. Her voice is clear and serious, allowing the reader an immersive experience of what it’s like to be young in a confusing, contradictory society.

Sandy is a wonderful character; her curiosity for words, her love for her ‘upside-down’ family, her rapid judgement on what is ‘stupid’ and ‘ridiculous’, her logical and very personal attempts to answer the question ‘what are you’ all combine to make this a character you are sorry to leave.

So if you pick up this book and think you’re stepping into a shallow puddle, be prepared for hidden depths.

You’ll enjoy this if you liked: Judy Blume, The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger

Avoid if you don’t like: A young narrator, 1970s’ small town America, tough questions

Ideal accompaniments: Root beer, the soundtrack to Grease and divinity with walnuts

Genre: YA (but for everyone)

Available on Amazon

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