Please note that I received this book via NetGalley. This did not affect my rating or review.
So this was a great book to end the week with. It was so good. I think the setting of New Jersey in 1985 played such an important role in the telling of this story. It really did take me back to a different time and place when I was growing up. This book really does show the end of innocence for Bee, but also for the entire town of Hammend as well.
“Our Little World” follows Bee Kocsis as she prepares for a summer of not doing much with her younger sister, Audrina. However, when the Baker family moves across the street, things change between the sisters. Bee finds herself “liking” Max, but feeling put out that both he and his younger sister Sally, seem to prefer Audrina, like everyone else does. When Bee sees that Audrina has given Sally a bracelet that Bee has always wanted, she feels jealous and angry. However, things turn tragic after a morning at Deer Chase Lake, when Sally has gone missing. From there the book moves to a town coming under suspicion and wondering what happened to Sally. And we see how the Kocsis family falls apart little by little, and what comes after.
So, this was really good. At times you may not like Bee, but she’s a 7th grader. I felt for her. Being that age and wanting to be popular, having crushes, feeling jealous of siblings that are more popular than you? This book brought that all back to me. Bee is troubled about Sally’s disappearance and wonders who could have done it, but also thrives on the attention that it brings her in school that she knew Sally and was there when she disappeared. She loves her sister, but is glad that they are not in the same school that year, instead she feels like she is finally being seen by others and not compared to Audrina. There’s jealously, anger, but also love.
Audrina was complex to me. You could write her off as a spoiled younger sister, but her diary entries, and even her interactions with Bee gives you the sense of her character. She loves her sister just as much, but also hates her too. That is the way of sisters it seems.
I thought the other characters were done very well too, Bee and Audrina’s parents, Father, Mother (I still don’t recall if anyone said their names), Max, Max’s parents, and the kids at schools. You get a sense of everyone and when the book rolls on through we suddenly find some of these characters 33 years later after that terrible summer that changed a whole town.
The writing was so good. I really fell instantly into this book. Winn brings back the 80s for me in just writing about things as new information such as the disappearance of Adam Walsh, how excited people were that the first teacher ever was about to go into space, etc.. You read these things and you can feel the coming pall that is about to come over everything.
The flow of the book was good, but there are a couple of fits and starts towards the beginning. It just felt like the book was trying to tell you too much from the very first before it settled down and let you follow things as they progressed. Also, the main portion of the book follows Bee for a year after Sally dies and then the book jumps forward to about 30 years later.
The setting of Hammend brought me back to a different time and place. Small towns are their own little worlds and I think Winn showed that wonderfully through her writing.
The ending was pitch perfect I thought. You also get resolution to the overall story of what happened to Sally, which I was happy about. I hate books that just leave loose ends. But the resolution to it was also bitter as heck when things are “fitted” together.