June 5, 2011

Book Talk: A Million Miles From Boston

"Don't judge a book by its cover." I've said it, but I still do it. Do you? "I don't like old looking books", "I don't like books with unicorns on them", "I don't like blue books"... 
You do, don't you?
Not just books- you might judge people by their covers. Do you make judgements about people because of how they look, how they talk, where they live or who they love? May be you've even judged a bully by his mean behavior. Many times, a bully is a bully because he (OR she) is insecure, bullied by someone else or even lonely.  Lucy, the main character in A Million Miles From Boston by Karen Day (F DAY) deals with this issue when she spends the summer on the coast of Maine.
Lucy hates Ian Richards and Ian Richards hates Lucy. Ian has a tendency to steal the spotlight wherever he goes, he lies and he blames Lucy for the trouble he causes. She also hates Julia (The PT). Julia is her father's physical therapist and love interest. Lucy is happy to leave both of them behind and head to her family summer cottage in Maine. 12 year old Lucy, her brother Bucky and her father have vacationing in Maine her entire life.  Until she was 6 her mom came too- but her mom died of stage 4 brain cancer. Now, it's just the 3 of them (4 if you count Lucy's dog Superior) and Lucy likes it that way- she likes things to stay the same.
But the minute she arrives in Maine, she knows things have changed.  A rich family from her neck of the woods (Boston) has bought the once abandoned mansion and have been remodeling. Lucy doesn't like the idea of some snooty family moving in and shaking things up. When she finds out that the rich family is The Richards' family (YES! Ian's family!) she is more than annoyed. She is sure that he will spend the summer getting her in trouble and teasing her. But she meets his mom and sister and likes them- they seem nice.
On their first night in Maine, Lucy's dad announces that Julia will be visiting them over the summer. He tells Lucy & Bucky that he really loves Julia- but Lucy doesn't want to hear it.  She doesn't want a new woman in her life- and besides, Julia laughs too loud, her teeth are too big and she is clumsy. 
As the summer goes on, Lucy becomes conflicted about her feelings for Julia and Ian (and Ian's sister, Allison).  Julia makes her dad happy. Ian is good with little kids. Allison has lied to her.  Julia reminds Lucy that people often have 2 sides- the side they show to everyone, and the side people rarely get to see. People compensate for problems they have in their lives. Lucy has been judging books by their covers- and it takes a lot of inner conflict to decide to make a change. 
This would be a great novel to use when teaching conflict. Lucy struggles with her thoughts throughout the entire book. She struggles with the loss of her mother & the introduction of a possible new stepmother. She struggles with her memories of her mother. She struggles with Ian and Julia and with her feelings about them. I was in a hurry for the conflict to resolve- I wanted to know how Lucy resolved these feelings of hers- and I was happy that Karen Day didn't rush a conclusion (that is one of my bookish pet peeves)
The setting of A Million Miles From Boston is as much a character in this book as Lucy herself. I felt like I was on Pearson Point. I could smell the pine, hear the buoys clanging and see the mist hanging in the air. This book would be well paired with Touch Blue if you were teaching The Northeast Region, and both books deal with conflict.
As a side note, I spent the entire book worrying that Lucy's beloved dog, Superior would die. Blame it on Where The Red Fern Grows, but I have a severe dead dog paranoia. Bigfoot, you will be happy to know that you can read this book- the dog does NOT die! 
The main characters of the book are leaving 6th grade, but I think kids in grades 4+ would enjoy this realistic fiction novel.
(I received this book from the publisher but received no compensation for my review, nor was I asked to write a review)

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