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Review: Sand Dollar Summer

Review: Sand Dollar Summer

Title: Sand Dollar Summer
Author: Kimberly K. Jones
Published: 2006
Length: 206 pages

My star rating: ★ ★ ½

Twelve-year-old Lise and her little brother Free enjoy a charmed life with their glamorous, no-nonsense single mother until she is badly injured in a car accident. Afterwards, the family goes on an extended vacation to Fiddle Island, Maine, where Lise’s mother grew up. Lise hates the ocean and spends most of her time sulking until she befriends Ben, the “crazy Indian” who lives on the other end of the island. But bigger trouble is brewing out at sea.

Here’s another book I was suckered into reading because it’s set on the New England coast.

When am I going to learn, dammit?

It started out with some potential, but then devolved into a whiny twelve-year-old narrator feeling sorry for herself and being condescending about the way adults act and speak.

The characters are, by and large, Quirky, or at least they’re meant to seem that way. Lise is a spoiled know-it-all with an attitude and a smart mouth; Free not only has a Quirky name, but is also totally mute; and their mother, Annalise, is seemingly independent, ambitious, and sassy–but is, in reality, simply bitter.

Lise’s voice is annoying. Very annoying. She has idolized her sassy mother all her life, so she has naturally adopted her sass…except it’s not charming in a twelve-year-old. At all. Especially the “ew, adults” thing. Her woe-is-me act gets old very quickly, too. I went on a beach vacation with my parents when I was fourteen–not that much older than Lise. I moaned and groaned about it being hot and boring, too…for the first three days or so. Lise carries on like that for pages and pages on end. 

I love the ocean. It’s beautiful and dangerous, soothing and stirring and unpredictable (which is a theme of this book) all at once, but the siren song of the sea is not enough to carry even a poorly-written YA novella. There has to be a plot of some kind.

The plot here involves Lise bonding with Ben, sort of, except that only took up a few chapters. It also includes her mother’s healing process, sort of, but that was clumsily-handled, too.

Ms. Jones must not understand character development very well, either, because Annalise goes from Sassy-and-Slightly-Neurotic Mom to Laissez-Faire Mom in the blink of an eye. As soon as they get to Maine, she is content to stare mournfully at the ocean all day long while her kids get sunburned and potentially pneumonia, too (no joke, the water off the New England coast is frigid, but Annalise practically insists that her children spend all their time there). She spends her days picking up trash and staring listlessly out to sea. Sorry, I don’t believe that a car accident, even a bad one, could change a person that drastically.

And then there’s the mysterious where-is-Lise’s-dad thing. I thought Jones was going one way with it, but she didn’t. In the end, the whole thing was about as clear as mud. The story ends very abruptly. Few issues are properly resolved. Overall, it made for a rather tedious and disappointing book.


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