I know that this is turning into a ‘love it or hate it’ type book (even amongst the Cannonball reviews), but I personally really enjoyed it.
We are introduced to Kya, a girl living in the marshes of North Carolina in the 60s. Her dysfunctional family lives a secluded life away from town, subject to poverty and her father’s drunken abuse. One by one her mother and siblings flee, leaving Kya alone with her volatile father, until one day, he too disappears. Kya becomes known as The Marsh Girl, mysterious and feral, living alone in her shack, fending for herself in seclusion, living off the land, limiting her human interaction to as few people as possible.
She is befriended by a sweet boy from town who teaches her to read (and becomes her first love interest). Her thirst for books and knowledge transform her collections of marsh shells, feathers and wildlife into beautifully illustrated books that she eventually has published.
But one day the local town ‘hero’ (quarterback, heartthrob, general douchebag, you know the type), is found murdered. Because of an unfortunate connection to Kya, she becomes the prime suspect in his murder case.
This book is written in a ‘chronologically hopping all over the place’ style, which I don’t love, but could overlook in this case. There ARE many aspects of this story that are far-fetched and unbelievable, but I was willing to look past them because the rest was so enjoyable. I loved how Owens made the marsh a character of its own; never in a million years would I have thought of North Carolina marshland as a beautiful thing, but her descriptions made it come to life and was a moving tribute to the beauty of nature. Kya’s story of perseverance was fascinating (but yes, a stretch at times). A few plot elements were unnecessary (the poetry reveal at the end, for example), but overall I really enjoyed this book. It was a great summer read that I couldn’t put down.