It has been a while since I have dipped into a book for a "young reader" as they call them. I guess the last Harry Potter book would be the occasion. No, I lie, it would have been His Dark Materials series. But, anyway, I have zipped through That Girl Lucy Moon by Amy Timberlake and can honestly say that this is a book I would have happily bought my daughter - and I was pretty fussy.
Lucy is quirky,brave, believable and also changeable, vulnerable, unsure of herself in her new milieu of middle school. I liked many things about her more than the almost reflexive activism which she wore a bit like her hat as part of her persona. I liked her questioning of things, her desire for truth, her courage, especially the courage to apologise and take her lumps. Yes, I liked Lucy. Not that she didn't have faults but that is what makes her so human, so tangible that you want to just take her in your arms and comfort her as Mrs. Rossignol did.
I also liked the way the author crafted the book. It has young humour. It is spoofy, campy, with names like Turtle Rock and Wiggins, Dee Reams and Mrs. Mudd, a tofu turkey dinner and all the fuss about sledding (but maybe sledding is to Minnesota what hockey is to Port Huron?) Yes, the plot is a bit predictable (historic document proves hill cannot be controlled by Viola Wiggins and therefore free for community sledding after all) but the story really isn't about Wiggins Hill. It is about how Lucy and her Dad get through Lucy's Mom's mid- life crisis, how they grow and how they support each other. That is the real power of the book, the psychological insight it offers.
Lucy is at first sympathetic to and patient with her mother, even proud, but then impatient and annoyed. But as she learns and understands more she becomes angry, bitter, and feels abandoned but in the end she is relieved and reassured when her mother returns home from her rather self-indulgent adventure. In between she grows up a little and in noticing her father's pain loses some of her childish self-centredness. She recognizes the fickleness of fame and the meaning of true friendship. This is the kind of character and kind of theme that makes a book a classic.
Amy Timberlake builds an edifice of community in her portrayal of Lucy, Lucy's friends, and the people of Turtle Rock. Their reactions, Lucy's father's subtle presence and strength and Lucy's rollercoaster ride over a very rough, icy patch of hill, that is the real strength of the book shoring up and overpowering the flimsy plot structure. As Alexander McCall Smith said it is in the small actions and events in life that the moral dilemmas of our time become most clear and Amy has succeeded in expressing some of these in her deceptively simple, charming story.
I am relieved. I was afraid I wouldn't like the book. But if I hadn't I honestly would have said so, even though I was given the book on the understanding I would mention it ( for good or bad) .