CM . . .
. Volume XVII Number 26. . . .March 11, 2011
Somebody's Girl. (Orca Young Readers).
Maggie de Vries.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2011.
164 pp., pbk., $7.95.
Grades 4-6 / Ages 9-11.
Review by Jessica Kluthe.
Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.
She walked forward, stood on the bridge and gazed down into the tumbling water. Something shot forward. A fish had just swum under the bridge. Martha turned quickly and saw it swim on upstream, another fish close beside. She turned back and stared into the water some more. The bottom of the stream was covered in round orange spheres.
The salmon were spawning! They really were!
Not far beyond the bridge, a pier was built out into a big pond surrounded by trees. Doug and Angie and Chance were leaning over a railing pointing at something in the water. Angie had her camera in her hands. That must be the sturgeon pond.
Martha watched the stream some more, waiting for the others to move on. They did not. At last, she left the bridge and wandered in their direction. Doug looked up and beckoned, his smile enormous. Martha hung back.
Nine-year-old Martha's daily routine is disrupted with the news that her adoptive mother is having a baby and that she must assume some of the household chores. To make matters worse, her biological mother is getting married and moving away. As Martha's world begins to shift, she feels alone and upset that she is no longer going to be an only child. Even her friendships with her closest friends begin to change as Martha pushes them away. Martha's frustration is heightened when she is paired up with an annoying boy named Chance to work on an ongoing project about sturgeon. She is forced to spend Christmas with Chance, a foster child with his own complex family dynamics, as Martha's parents are in the hospital preparing for their new arrival.
Martha's exploration of the natural world, alongside her navigation of her changing family life and friendships, collide during an emotional Christmas day. She closes her eyes and imagines "…something big [move] beneath the water. Something old. A sturgeon… She could almost feel the fish as it swam by, smooth and cools and wet against her skin." Martha finds comfort in these imaginings, which suggest to the reader a natural ebb and flow to her changing life. Her hesitant fascination with the fish, paired with Chance's enthusiasm for them, come together when Martha, in her loneliness, allows this natural world to enter her thoughts while she is stuck with Chance's family instead of her own.
Somebody's Girl explores the complex emotions of frustration, loneliness and uncertainty within a framework that can teach readers about responsibility and maturity. The well-developed characters are placed in detailed settings, experience believable feelings, and give the reader the impression that Martha could live down the street and Chance could be a schoolmate.
Jessica Kluthe is an MFA candidate in Writing at the University of Victoria and is currently writing an Italian-Canadian memoir.
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