An oldie but a goodie!
Many thanks to the wonderful staff at Bloomsbury Publishing for sending me this novel for review. It was released in America on the 8th of January (my birthday!).
Was first published by Bloomsbury USA in February of 2012, and has been re-released this year
Blurb: Rediscover Newbery Honor- and Coretta Scott King Author Award-winner Renée Watson's heart-rending debut, about one girl's journey to reconnect to joy. Serenity is good at keeping secrets, and she's got a whole lifetime's worth of them. Her mother is dead, her father is gone, and starting life over at her grandparents' house is strange. Luckily, certain things seem to hold promise: a new friend who makes her feel connected, and a boy who makes her feel seen. But when her brother starts making poor choices, her friend is keeping her own dangerous secret, and her grandparents put all of their trust in a faith that Serenity isn't sure she understands, it is the power of love that will repair her heart and keep her sure of just who she is. Renée Watson's stunning writing shines in this powerful and ultimately uplifting novel.
I loved how I was fully immersed in the story and how Watson just drew me in with her words. Though I did enjoy the book, the ending let me down and upon reflection, I discovered a few flaws with the novel.
This is the first book I’ve read by Renee Watson, and despite the harsh review I will give this book, I am eager to read further books by her in the future as I believe in on judging an author’s entire archive of books off of one work.
I will keep this short as it was quite a small novel and a quick one to fly through, despite all of the improper English in the speech of the characters that tripped me up and the constant use of “daddy” instead of “dad” or “father” that tripped me up constantly (sorry for being gen z).
The main thing that ticked me off about this novel was the fact that it was dealing with a girl of about 13-14 years of age who had lost both her mother and father and was now dealing with immense grief, but the story didn’t feel like it was focused on the grief, rather all the things that were happening in Serenity’s daily life. It made it worse that all of the actions that occurred weren’t a cause or had any direct relation to the death/ grief, but kind of ignored it except for when needing to bring up drama and old secrets for the sake of it. The storyline, that I felt wasn’t truly established, didn’t revolve around the central theme of Serenity’s mother’s death and the dangerous cause of it, rather just left the subject untouched altogether.
From the way Serenity spoke, using childish words like “daddy” and describing everything in a very simplistic and naïve way, it made her seem younger than the 13-14-year-old she was being portrayed as. Maybe it was because she was raised as a very conservative Christian and had little freedom or exposure to anything or just a manner in which she was raised, but I felt as if her speech and her actions – pinning after a boy who was described like someone much older – were very contradictory of each other, and I wasn’t sure of how to perceive her.
Despite this, I did feel okay with the other characters, although the things they did made me question their ages and parental guidance. I found that their journeys were a little more interesting than Serenity’s at times. Usually, when other characters lives entwine with the protagonists, their stories usually end too, wind up and come to a close with the protagonist; but it seemed as if there were too many unfinished stories & undiscovered happiness left out in the open. With Jay and his bag of clothes; and Maria and her grieving. If people are placed in the path of the protagonist with their own lives on display, they have to have an ending too. An explanation or reaction to certain events that would’ve been nice to see from other’s points of views too. The end was very much a let down for me and not at all conclusive or memorable, even for the protagonist.
Otherwise, I grew to enjoy and become comfortable with the voice it was written in, although the incorrect “me & Danny” was annoying as it is supposed to be “Danny & I” and really threw me off and ruined the flow of the story. I told myself that was just character and identified her as a resident of Portland and maybe that’s how they speak (improper English) in the area. I am making no judgements, though it did make the writing feel jerky and uncomfortable to read.
★ Rating ★
I rated this novel a ★★★☆☆ (3/5 stars) as there were a few elements missing for me. It was definitely not a five-star novel, but it could’ve been a four star if the story was more developed and didn’t leave so many holes with the other characters that were involved in the story.
What are your thoughts on Renée Watson’s writings? I’ve only read this one so I cannot say much, but I will be reading another to have a more informed opinion. xxx
With Love Bree xx
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