My grandchild asked me to read this and discuss it with her. It is an emotionally drawn picture of a teen in distress, a teen that comes of age in the midst of tragedy, a teen who suffers from partial amnesia after a particularly devastating event which she does not remember. Her search for what caused her lapse in memory, her migraine headaches, her emotional trauma, her separation from her family, and her ultimate realization of the cause of these events, is the crux of the story.
Over the period of about a decade, the reader will examine the life of Cadence Sinclair Eastman, born with a silver spoon in her mouth and afforded every advantage money can buy. Her life seems enviable. It is written so well that the reader is captured immediately and transported to an island off the coast of Massachusetts, an island near Martha’s Vineyard in the environs of Cape Cod, where the members of her Sinclair family come together to spend the summers in idyllic circumstances. Because I also summer on Cape Cod and often travel by boat to the Vineyard, I identified with many of the issues the characters embraced and examined. There are times when what appears on the surface often overshadows the underlying problems that need to be addressed and this book scrutinizes the many issues families face with honesty and depth. Parental involvement, broken homes, family life, financial status, racism, class warfare, equal opportunity, moral and ethical values that reach across several cultures are explored and their warts are exposed.
The reader will ask themselves the question, to what lengths would you go to change the world to a more welcoming place for all, to get the positive attention of those you love, to stop the negative demands and manipulation, to stop the pettiness and the fighting, to try to regain that feeling of innocence and lightness of your childhood, to run from the pain and problems of growing up? The author defines the issues that young adults face and exposes the difficulties they experience in dealing with the world in which they live. She examines their thought processes with precision. She introduces fairy tales to make a point and ends it with a moral to make the reader think, uses the device of anthropomorphism, making migraine headaches living beasts, uses metaphors to drive home a point, comparing reality to imaginings. The reader will try and identify which character in the story is closely associated with the fairy tale characters. Who is Beauty and who is Beast? Who is the little princess and who is the mouseling? What does the moral mean?
Will the young reader understand that at a certain age they are ill equipped to make intelligent decisions on their own, that although they think they have the one right way, they need adult input? What happens when the adults behave like children? What kind of an example do they set? Will they realize that every action has consequences that need to be considered or is it something that comes with age and years of experience? The author has entered the mind of a teenager and brought her to life on the pages. Through the use of fantasy, magic realism and reality, the book has many lessons to teach and enrich the reader. It would be wise to discuss it with a parent or a mentor or a teacher. The themes are difficult to deal with because they involve stark reality.
There is both a kind of innocent evil strain, as well as an innocent goodness in some of the characters, and the trauma of loss and the concept of futile dreams has to be faced squarely. The conflicts that teens face as they come of age are not easy to deal with and this book shines a light on the wonders and the catastrophes that arise. There are strong messages about the kinds of values to live by, the kinds to reject and the kinds to admire. As I read, I thought, if the whole world was blind, most of the problems we deal with would probably be eliminated, since everyone would be judged by their actions and not by outward appearance and affluence. Power would be attained through good works, not through image and the influence of the dollar. What is the ultimate message of this book? Is it hope, courage, and the strength to go on in the face of failure, mistakes and loss, is the message to dust yourself off and start over, no matter what you face? The reader will decide.
My one criticism is that the author, however subtly, could not resist the urge to put her own personal, liberal ideology into the narrative. To attempt to influence the reader in that way, giving only one side, forming their opinions with half-truths is disingenuous, at the very least, since it unfairly and unduly influences the way their ideas and goals will develop and, ultimately, the paths they will follow. However, she is not alone; this seems to have become quite a common theme with liberal authors.