CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 38 . . . . June 3, 2011
Every Little Thing in the World.
Nina de Gramont.
New York, NY: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (Distributed in Canada by Simon & Schuster Canada), 2010.
282 pp., hardcover, $21.99.
Grades 8-12 / Ages 13-17.
Review by Jeannine Stickle.
We could live without the world of pixels and radio waves, we could even immediately forget it, replacing television with campfires, and iPods with old John Denver tunes and Silas’s gorgeous, silken picking. I felt something inside me relax for the first time since my dad had told me his post-oil, post-civilization theory. If all the cities in the world shut down tomorrow, we—this group, here now—would be okay, paddling around Lake Keewaytinook. The thought was such a revelation that I shared it with Natalia. At first she nodded in agreement. Then she said, “But of course in that case you’d have to have the baby.”
I let my oar drag in the water. The bow of our canoe drifted, barely perceptibly, toward shore. It was weird how Natalia thought about my pregnancy more than I did.
“Think of it,’ she said. “We’d all be out here, living in our tents, foraging for food. And you’d have this baby, and we’d all take care of it. It would belong to all of us.”
The idea was so fanciful, so beyond anything that would actually ever happen, that I took a moment to consider it. I pictured the ten of us like some kind of Native American tribe, tending to a baby that we’d take turns carrying around in a little papoose. It would be a very cute baby, with Tommy’s glossy hair and my big brown eyes. Maybe we’d eventually run into Cody’s group: He, the baby, and I could form a postapocalyptic family. We would be brave and idyllic in the
wilderness. There was something beautiful about the scenario.
Good girl Sydney Biggs comes of age at summer camp when she makes an adult decision about her secret pregnancy in this well-written and realistic young adult novel. At the opening of the
novel, Sydney, who has always identified as a good kid, finds herself in the nebulous period of her teenage years when she has begun to make her own decisions which sometimes go against the rules and norms of the authority figures in her life. It seems to her mother that she is becoming a rebellious and troublesome teenager, a situation that will seem realistic and familiar to many teenage readers, and Sydney is sent to live with her overly-idealistic and distant father for the summer. He, in turn, sends her to a month-long canoe camp on Lake Keewaytinook in Ontario. Throughout the events of the novel, Sydney is keeping the secret of her pregnancy, which only her best friend, Natalia, who is equally in trouble but sent to join her at the camp nonetheless, knows. Sydney and Natalia struggle with what to do about Sydney’s pregnancy. Sydney wants to have an abortion, but she is passive about planning to have one because she does not want to tell her parents and has not completely accepted the idea that she is pregnant. Natalia, who recently discovered that her real mother was pregnant with her at a young age, is against Sydney’s desire to have an abortion, and this point of contention strains their relationship. Though Sydney eventually promises Natalia that she will have the baby, Sydney cannot pass up the opportunity to abort it when she finds herself in the hospital as a result of a group-wide food poisoning, and the relationship with her mother is partially repaired when she must call her from the hospital to ask her to pay for the abortion.
Though the problem of Sydney’s pregnancy is always present, Every Little Thing in the World is primarily a realistic camp novel that will be enjoyed by teenage girls who love outdoors camping. The strongest aspect of this novel is how realistically it portrays group dynamics, portraying the forming of close friendships, the love and loyalty Sydney feels towards all members of the group, then the deterioration of friendships as time wears on and familiarity and tension increase. This realistic aspect, despite Sydney’s extreme circumstances, makes it easy for the reader to identify with Sydney and makes this a charming and engaging read.
This novel does, however, have a strong American bias. Though the camp takes place in Ontario, none of the characters seem to be Canadian as the only characters who mention their hometowns are from the United States. Given the location of the camp, this is unrealistic, and it is clear that the novel is catering heavily to an American audience and does not consider Canadian readers, despite the setting. There is also very little sense of place developed while Sydney is at camp, with few landmarks or place names mentioned. The most prominent mention of the Canadian setting happens when Sydney’s canoe group is sent to the hospital to be treated for food poisoning and Sydney tells the doctor she would like to have an abortion. The doctor explains that the abortion would be free if she was Canadian, but that it will cost money because she is an American. By that time, the reader, like Sydney, has forgotten that they are in Canada.
Nina de Gramont is the author of several novels for adults, including Of Cats and Men and Gossip of the Starlings. This is her first young adult novel. Every Little Thing in the World is recommended for teenage girls who enjoy realistic fiction, especially realistic novels set at camp or novels about relationships with family or friends. It is recommended for purchase in public and school library collections.
Jeannine Stickle is a Library and Information Studies student at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC.
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