A Million Miles from Boston: Karen Day
March 18, 2011
Book: A Million Miles from Boston
Author: Karen Day
Age Range: 9-12
I have a weakness for books about girls on the cusp of adolescence, about to start middle school. I loved Jenny Han's Shug, Danette Haworth's Violet Raines Almost Got Hit by Lightning, and Karen Day's No Cream Puffs. When I learned that Day's upcoming novel, A Million Miles from Boston, is aimed at that same age range, I decided to take a look. I liked the title, too!
Apprehensive about the changes that starting middle school will bring, Lucy basks in the comfort of spending the summer at her family's cabin in Maine. At the cabin, everything has been the same for years, and Lucy's memories of her dead mother loom large. Lucy is particularly happy to be leaving behind her nemesis, Ian, and her father's new girlfriend, Julia. She is far from thrilled when Ian turns out to be her new neighbor, and Julia turns out to be a regular visitor. A million miles is apparently not quite far enough away from Boston...
The setting is in A Million Miles from Boston is perfect - you can practically smell the salt, feel the cold of the water, and hear the screen doors creaking. I loved the idea of this little enclave of cabins, with neighbors who have known each other for years, and kids running around playing their own special version of freeze tag. I envied Lucy, having a place like that to spend her summers. Here are a couple of passages, to give you a feel for the setting:
"We moved up the walkway and pushed open the door. The porch was cool and smelled like mildew, but it was the best smell ever. My shoulders relaxed and warmth oozed into my arms. For two months it would be the four of us, doing what we did every summer... Everything was as we had left it: Grandma's framed needlepoints on the walls, Granddad's clock on the mantel, the crocheted afghan on the couch. The torn wallpaper. The driftwood lamp. The room hadn't changed since Dad was a boy." (Page 17, ARC)
"I looked up. Millions of stars were little white pinpricks in the dark sky, as far as I could see. Below me the dock creaked and the water lapped against the shore and the moored boats.
Back in Boston, when I couldn't sleep, I thought about nights like this up here. Quiet. Beautiful. Peaceful. I took a deep breath, the warm salt air filling my lungs." (Page 67, ARC)
Maybe it was because I envied her summer cabin (joke), but I did find myself getting a bit impatient with Lucy as I read this book (true). I kind of wanted to shake her, to have her get over her various fears and insecurities. It was clear from early on what she was going to have come to terms with the need for change, and that she'd have to work things out with some of the other characters. I found myself wanting her to get on with it. Perhaps I'm just not as good at putting myself in the shoes of an 11 year old reader as I once was. I'll be interested to hear feedback from kids about this book.
I did think that Lucy's pain and confusion over her mother's death were very well done. There's a scene in particular in which Lucy talks with a new neighbor, a woman who also lost her mother at a young age, that is pitch perfect. Lucy is dying for this woman to talk with her more, to ask her more about her mother, to understand something that most people can't understand. And this neighbor, who must have lost her mother 25 years earlier, shows her own emotional scars, too. In A Million Miles from Boston, the lost mother is far from the plot device that it is in many books for kids - it's the very heart of the story.
Despite my occasional impatience with Lucy, I did enjoy this book, especially the ending. And I adored the setting. A Million Miles from Boston is a book that I'll remember for a long time. Recommended for girls getting ready to start middle school, anyone coping with the loss of a mother, or anyone who would like to vicariously spend a summer in a small vacation community on the coast of Maine.
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
Publication Date: April 5, 2011
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher
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