Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Book Review: Body of Water, by Sarah Dooley

Body of Water is a touching story of one girl making the best of a bad situation.

As the book opens, 12-year-old Ember and her family are escaping their trailer because it is on fire. They lose everything. They spend some time in the basement of a church, but for most of the book they live in a camp ground in tents.

Ember has lost her dog, as well as all of her possessions. She has only a pair of sweatpants to wear during the very hot summer months. Her 7-year-old sister is fairing somewhat better, since she doesn’t understand how dire things are.

This is a story about growth, and understanding what is important, and fighting for what you need. Ember’s parents didn’t seem all that savvy about getting back on their feet. I thought the lack of support from the community or social services was a bit unrealistic. When Ember finally goes to school, she has a conversation with the principal who is familiar with her situation and he asks if there’s anything Ember needs. He doesn’t wait for an answer. He just brushes her off. I thought this was also really unrealistic. Their brother, Isaac, is going to college. He presumably has an apartment or some means to live, but he doesn’t help much. The grandmother is the same – she offers almost no support. I found some of this pretty hard to believe.

There’s a lot more to the story. The family is Wiccan. They cast spells and perform rituals. Ember’s suspects her best friend, Anson, is the one who set fire to their trailer. It isn’t clear why she thinks this until farther into the book, so I won’t discuss that here. (Although much of this is revealed in the book blurb, which I would suggest you do not read—WHY do they do that???) Ember writes notes to Anson that she never expects him to read. She is bent on revenging his actions. The notes are dated, but I found it a bit confusing at first as to whether these notes were written in the past or present. They are written in the present, as the story is told, but I think middle school students may have trouble with some of the timeline, given that there are flashbacks as well as these notes.

Ember and Ivy meet several other kids who are staying at the campground. The evolution of the relationships is very well done by Dooley. You really want everything to turn out all right for Ember. Some things are resolved very quickly at the end of the book, but I wanted a little bit more. It seems like maybe they are going to be OK, but I would have liked another chapter—just one more step in the process—before the book ended.

I think this will be a tough sell to middle schoolers. It has a very slow, deliberate pace, although it is well written and easy to read. The story doesn’t have a lot of action, but for girls who like a sweet story about a girl struggling with what seem to be insurmountable obstacles, this would be a good choice.

Published by Feiwel and Friends, October 25, 2011
ARC obtained for review from Linworth Publishing (for Library Media Connection Magazine)
326 pages

Rating: 3/5

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