Sometimes things happen around you that you don’t have much control over. Because of that, sometimes you do things you wouldn’t otherwise do and you regret it later.
Mitch’s family has changed from what it was. His father moved out and left with another woman. His mother moved back home to her parents’ house at a place called Bird Lake. The house next door is empty and he wants it for his own, but it turns out somebody actually owns it. They show up one day.
There is a boy a bit younger than Mitch in the family. Mitch feels as if they are intruders. He sprinkles sugar on their porch and draws symbols in it. Little does he know that being at Bird Lake is difficult for the family.
Spencer is the boy’s name. When he was young, his older brother drowned in the lake. His mother wanted to come and spend time at the house, but it’s hard for her. The absence of Matty seems to be felt the strongest where he died.
Through something that Mitch does, Spencer and Mitch becomes friends. Eventually the truth about what Mitch did to Spencer comes out, but it doesn’t stall their friendship for very long.
What I liked
Um, this is a nice enough book. I don’t have a lot of praises to sing about it beyond that. It’s a book. It works.
What I didn’t like
This book has a lot of the right pieces to make a good story. We have a story told from two sides. We have conflict, both internally in Mitch and Spencer, but also externally between the two. We also have external conflict with all of the family situations going on. In the end each boy is trying to make his own way in the crazy life that is his family. We have friendship. We have regret. We have all of these things, but I’m not overly impressed with any of them. This story has potential, especially with the idea of a dead child floating around (I realize floating may not be the proper word to use here especially considering we are talking of a child who drowned). That may sound morbid, but sometimes childhood deaths make some of the best story elements there are.
It just doesn’t do it for me. The main problem is that there isn’t enough meat in this book. It’s meant for a younger audience. When I originally looked up the length of this book it was 130 pages, but that didn’t factor in excerpts from two of Kevin’s other books, plus any other additional pages taken up by titles and acknowledgements. Taking away all of that, the book isn’t very long, which doesn’t bother me so much because I am trying to get in a certain amount of books in a certain amount of time, but I feel the length of the book is cheating the story. There simply isn’t enough length there to tell everything the story needs told.
With all the things going on, there is a lot of potential in this story, there really is, but we are walking a line between appealing to a child audience and an adult audience. Make it longer and explain more of the story and you appeal more to the adult audience, but you might lose some of your child audience, but J.K. Rowling has more than proved that you don’t have to write short books to appeal to children. So making it longer isn’t necessarily going to alienate any of the child audience.
Why didn’t Spencer’s family just rent their lake house to Mitch and his mother if they didn’t want to stay there?
Obviously, reconciling your emotions about the place where you both had fun as a child and found out your son was dead would be difficult. If you were in this situation would you sell the house or keep it?