Lucy’s mother was a marine biologist who was particularly interested in sharks. People told her mother that this enthusiasm would get her killed, but it was a brain aneurysm that ended up taking her life. Lucy was seven when that happened, and while she still finds herself occasionally swept up in bouts of grief, she and her father are getting by. Friends and neighbors help a lot. Fred from across the street is her best friend, though now at 13 years old, she is beginning to feel differently about him and his endearing quirks. They’ve gone in together on a project to create a field guide for their hometown of Rockport, MA, and this summer seems to have brought an entirely unexpected creature to the area: a great white shark washed up in the bay. Here once again, though, the dangers of great whites turn out to be nothing against another tragedy that surfaces in Lucy’s life. But digging into the creature and and her mother’s biological studies might just be the thing to keep Lucy afloat when she feels like she’s drowning.
Guys, why do people like to read such sad books? Am I one of those people? I didn’t think so, because when I read this, I got so mad at the book award committee I’m on for nominating it and making me feel my feelings, cuz I wasn’t ready! I wasn’t ready to feel these feels! But, having sat with the book and worked through the feels, maybe I am one of those people who likes to read such sad books because I’ll be recommending this one to everyone I meet.
Kate Allen writes a tender story about first love, grief, and found family that is balanced with an enthusiastic account of New England life and shark science. In my experience as a librarian, sharks are one of those subjects that kids really dig into, like trains and ghosts and world records. Allen’s book is for an older reader (I’d recommend 5-7th grade), but I like that this is the subject matter that Lucy digs into while coming back from a harrowing loss. It softens the blow of working through Lucy’s losses to feel an enthusiasm for a subject you may have loved as a younger kid – but also to experience the science in a deeper way. And it’s the perfect analogy for Lucy’s experience, because as her teacher notes, sharks are built for survival.
Recommended for middle schoolers and anyone who likes to read books set in New England that make you FEEL FEELINGS!!