by Karen Day
2011 | 224 pages | Middle Grade
2011 | 224 pages | Middle Grade
Like Junonia by Kevin Henkes and Summerhouse Time by Eileen Spinelli, A Million Miles from Boston is a middle grade novel about one pivotal visit to a favorite vacation spot. Lucy is twelve years old and has just completed sixth grade. As they do every summer, she and her family head to Pierson Point, Maine, the beautiful beach location where Lucy's parents got engaged, and where memories of Lucy's mother, who died of cancer, live on in her absence. Lucy has big plans for the summer - mainly starting a summer camp for the younger children, a dream her mother never got the chance to fulfill.
Not everything is what Lucy expects, however. This year, Ian, a mean and popular boy from her class in school, has also come to the Point with his family, and his father wants to make changes to some of the aging structures shared by the community. Her father has also invited an unwelcome guest, a physical therapist named Julia, who has become his girlfriend, and he wants Lucy to accept her into the family. Lucy struggles with big questions all summer long. Does accepting Julia as her new stepmother mean betraying her mother's memory? Is Ian really as mean as he acts, or is he hiding some secret pain? And how will Lucy handle all the changes in her life, both here at the Point, and in her upcoming first year of middle school?
Though the subject matter was somewhat repetitive for me after reading Junonia, Summerhouse Time, and The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall, I still enjoyed Karen Day's writing style in A Million Miles from Boston. The opening scene of the book shows a typical interaction between Ian and Lucy, which sets the tone for their relationship later on in the story. Day's description of boy/girl interactions among middle school students must have come from real-life observations. Ian's personality, in particular, and the way that girls are both fascinated and disgusted by the daring bad boys, really stood out for me, and I could practically hear each line of dialogue as it was spoken.
I also really liked the way Day used flashbacks to fill the reader in on events from the past. Shifts back and forth through time were handled very smoothly, and I was never confused when the narration lapsed into a quick tale from the past. The only thing that confused me, honestly, was that both Lucy's babysitter and her father's girlfriend had names beginning with J. Though the babysitter was Jenny, and the girlfriend was Julia, and I knew that all along, I kept getting them confused because of their similar names. This actually made me question whether Jenny was even a necessary character, given the many other people in the book, and the fact that most of Lucy's conflicts, and the driving forces behind the story, seem to come from Julia instead. But this is a very minor nitpick about an otherwise emotionally satisfying and well-written realistic fiction book.
I definitely recommend this book to fans of the similar books I named earlier in this review. Don't let the title or the cover put you off - neither is fantastic, but they say nothing about the quality of the story, which is actually a great coming-of-age summer story about the transitions - internal and external - kids face as the middle school years approach.
I borrowed A Million Miles from Boston from my local public library.