Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Middle Grade Review: Quicksand Pond


Title: Quicksand Pond
Author: Janet Taylor Lisle
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2017. 240 pages (Hardback)
Source: Library

Publisher's Blurb:
Newbery Honor winner Janet Taylor Lisle’s gorgeous and profound new novel about a pivotal summer in two girls’ lives explores the convictions we form, the judgments we make, and the values we hold.

The pond is called Quicksand Pond.

It’s a shadowy, hidden place, full of chirping, shrieking, croaking life. It’s where, legend has it, people disappear. It’s where scrappy Terri Carr lives with her no-good family. And it’s where twelve-year-old Jessie Kettel is reluctantly spending her summer vacation.

Jessie meets Terri right away, on a raft out in the water, and the two become fast friends. On Quicksand Pond, Jessie and Terri can be lost to the outside world—lost until they want to be found. But a tragedy that occurred many decades ago has had lingering effects on this sleepy, small-minded town, and especially on Terri Carr. And the more Jessie learns, the more she begins to question her new friendship—and herself.

My Review: 
I picked this one up to fill the "Q" slot in my middle-grade alphabet reading challenge. I didn't realize until now that it won a Newbery Honor, though I'm not totally surprised. Or maybe I am, because I ended up with mixed feelings about the book. On reflection, those mixed feelings may be in large part why it's a prize winner.

The story is strong, and at the start it feels like it's going to be kind of a sweet story about a growing-up summer. You know the sort. Peaceful, with everything sorted out in the end. But things get more and more unsettling, and disturbing, and Jessie doesn't always know what is the right thing to do (nor does she always do what I would wish she would). Because of that, I was in some ways unsatisfied, and definitely not at peace. The ending leaves some things unresolved or not made clear, which always bugs me a little (I must have an awfully conventional streak in me, because I want to know just how it all works out, and not be left trying to interpret clues).

In the end, the importance of the book doesn't lie so much with how satisfying the story feels, but with the insights it shares about judgement and the assumptions we all make about others. As with a number of new books I've read recently, it's clear that Jessie's parents don't always act in the best ways, though they are clearly loving parents who want to take care of their children. But are they always good people? Jessie is clearly reaching an age where she'll have to ask that question more and more.

My Recommendation:
This is worth a read. It certainly brings up the question of gossip and how what we all think we know may be wrong. It's a little disturbing, and not the peaceful read I was expecting, but the author is addressing some important issues about rushing to judgement. We can all use a reminded of the dangers of that.

FTC Disclosure: I checked Quicksand Pond out of my library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."  

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