Monday, March 16, 2015

Review: Summer of the Gypsy Moths

Summer of the Gypsy Moths
By Sara Pennypacker, read by Jenna Lamia
Published 2013 by Listening Library

Stella likes living with her great-aunt, though she doesn't particularly like the foster kid who lives there, too. But when something unexpected happens and threatens Stella's life in Cape Cod, will she and Angel be able to set aside their differences and figure out a way to keep them both safe?

This book got quite a bit of buzz when it was released. I remember several people lobbied for it as a Newbery contender. It definitely caught my eye but I never found the time to read it. I recently downloaded the audio version and listened every spare second I had.

This is my first time reading a book by Pennypacker, though the Clementine series looks absolutely charming as well. I don't think it will be my last. I loved the simple yet beautiful way she told Stella and Angel's stories. I completely fell in love with the characters she created, including the beauty of Cape Cod itself. I was so swept up in the story that I found excuses to listen to my audio more than I typically do in a week. I desperately wanted to know what happened next, how these characters would find themselves and fix their hearts. Perhaps that broken and lost quality is what spoke to me. The characters here certainly have had hard times. But it never feels hopeless. In fact, Stella's spirit is probably a large part of what compelled me to keep reading this book.

However, the main thrust of this book is near impossible to actually believe. I don't know if we're supposed to assume some kind of magical realism or something a bit odd at play here, but I had to completely pretend the book took place in a fantasy land. If I stopped to think about the fact that Stella and Angel actually bury dear old Louise in the garden and then manage to fool everyone around them for months, my enjoyment of the book started to lessen. The ending also felt a bit tidy, though not everything was wrapped up neatly. I appreciated that Stella's mother didn't necessarily feature into her happy ending, as much as that also broke my heart.

I quite enjoyed listening to this one. Being from New England, I found it lovely to hear that Down East accent again, as much as I may poke fun at times. I've listened to other books read by Lamia and I think she's a great choice for youth literature - she has a vocal quality that makes her believable as a young narrator but she also has enough range to distinguish easily between characters.

I really enjoyed this one and am looking forward to catching up with Pennypacker again in the future.

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