Title: The Line Tender
Author: Kate Allen. Read by Jenna Lamia
Publication Info: Hardback by Dutton, 2019. 384 pages. Audiobook by Listening Library, 2019.
Source: Library digital resources
The Line Tender is the story of Lucy, the daughter of a marine biologist and a rescue diver, and the summer that changes her life. If she ever wants to lift the cloud of grief over her family and community, she must complete the research her late mother began. She must follow the sharks.
Wherever the sharks led, Lucy Everhart’s marine-biologist mother was sure to follow. In fact, she was on a boat far off the coast of Massachusetts, preparing to swim with a Great White, when she died suddenly. Lucy was eight. Since then Lucy and her father have done OK—thanks in large part to her best friend, Fred, and a few close friends and neighbors. But June of her twelfth summer brings more than the end of school and a heat wave to sleepy Rockport. On one steamy day, the tide brings a Great White—and then another tragedy, cutting short a friendship everyone insists was “meaningful” but no one can tell Lucy what it all meant. To survive the fresh wave of grief, Lucy must grab the line that connects her depressed father, a stubborn fisherman, and a curious old widower to her mother’s unfinished research. If Lucy can find a way to help this unlikely quartet follow the sharks her mother loved, she’ll finally be able to look beyond what she’s lost and toward what’s left to be discovered.
I listened to this book a bit piecemeal—until I reached the tipping point and had to listen through a two-hour hike to finish the story, though I don’t normally like to listen while hiking in beautiful places (which was why it had taken me a while to get to that point). I engaged with the characters, which made the “other tragedy” referred to in the blurb a real gut-punch, even though I guessed it was coming.
In some ways, this is one you could add to a fairly long list of middle-grade books about kids dealing with loss, usually that of a parent. But I can’t say this felt at all formulaic. I particularly appreciated the science aspect of the story, and that part of how Lucy the artist turns to her mother’s scientific work to help her cope with the double loss—and learns to appreciate science in a way she didn’t think possible.
The story is hard to handle in some ways, because of the death and loss that permeates it, but it is extremely well-written, and the narration was likewise excellent. I was slightly bothered by an inability to peg the period of the story—it felt a little historical, if only because no one seemed to have cell phones, and a few other minor points. But as far as I could tell there were no direct indicators, though in an audio book it is always possible to miss things.
A really engaging read, for kids old enough to cope with the realities of death. Also for anyone interested in marine biology.
Full Disclosure: I checked The Line Tender out of my library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher in exchange 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."