Vicky Austen is stuck on an iceberg in the Antarctic Ocean. How a sixteen year old from New England ended up there unfolds as Vicky relates events. Having spent a year in New York City, Vicky and her family returned to their home town, and Vicky feels out of place. Her older brother John is off at college, and her younger siblings don’t seem to have any trouble fitting back into their old lives. She has two years before she’s off to college, but until then it feels like she’s just marking time. Then her older brother’s friend (and Vicky’s crush) Adam introduces her to his great aunt Serena Eddington. Vicky and Aunt Serena quickly form a fast friendship and which leads to the trip of a lifetime for Vicky.
This is not the first time I’ve read this book. It’s probably not even the fifth. I’ve revisited it probably every other year if not more frequently at times. I’m not sure when exactly I first read it. It was when I was a tween/teen, and my guess I was on the younger side since I remember my mom reading it aloud to me. I’m not sure why she chose it. She’d read me Meet the Austens before and I hadn’t liked it. We hadn’t read any of the other books in the series, but she read me this one, and I loved it and reread it several times as a teen. And the book does work perfectly well as a stand alone novel. Would this book appeal to teens now? I don’t know. I’m not sure that it appealed to teens at the time it came out. It certainly isn’t one of L’Engle’s books that people talk about. But it spoke to me at the time and still does to some extent.
I had just relocated to a small rural town from the Bay Area and like Vicky I felt adrift. And also like Vicky I had more friendships with older folks than people my own age. One of things I really appreciate about this book is the way it celebrates intergenerational friendships. Vicky is friends with people of all ages, and not just one or two but a lot of them. I’m used to seeing kids and teens book with maybe one older mentor figure/friend, but not a bunch of them. I also really loved the fact that Vicky’s a writer, something I am as well, though she’s much more into poetry than I was. While there is a little romance, it’s not the focus of the story, but it does make for a nice addition. Really a lot of the story is Vicky figuring out things about herself and how she relates to the world in ways that I really related to. I also like the fact that Vicky herself is a pretty ordinary teen. Just a regular person thrown into circumstances that while extraordinary aren’t entirely unbelievable. I certainly felt like I was more like Vicky than I was like Alanna, Eilonwy or Lessa.
There are definitely things that feel dated in the book or haven’t aged well, but for the most part the story and the characters are so compelling that I don’t pay them much mind. It is very much based in a late eighties/early nineties time period with no technology like email or cell phones and the dissolution of the Soviet Union being a recent and present event, though I’m not sure you could call it historical fiction. Like I said, this isn’t one of L’Engle’s most well known works, and I think I’m the only person I’ve ever met who would call it their favorite of her books, but I think that this might appeal to folks who enjoy introspective fiction with a dash of mystery and romance. For me at least this book is like a warm comforting cup of tea to curl up with when I need something soothing. Five out of five stars.
CBR15 Bingo: South America – Quite a bit of the story is set in South America and several major characters are from there.