Monday, September 19, 2011

The One Hundredth Thing About Caroline by Lois Lowry

Caroline's life isn't perfect. She suffers through living with her brother (she's nicknamed him Beastly). Her parents are divorced and she barely knows her father. She has to eat things like eggplant and parsnips. But she also gets to spend a lot of time at the Museum of Natural History, learning about the dinosaurs. She has a good relationship with her mom and her best friend. Then one day she stumbles onto some mysterious clues that lead her to discovering that one of her neighbours might have a darker side... and even worse, her mom's starting to date him! Caroline and her brother could be in danger! Caroline's determined to expose him - but is she too late?

First things first: I picked this up just because it has a girl named Caroline in the title, and my name is Caroline. I know you can't judge a book by its cover, but having your name in a title doesn't hurt.

Is it just me, or is the storyline of 'young girl thinks that a stranger in her life is an evil killer' one that appears a few times in middle grade books? (Offhand, the only thing that I can think of is when Sally J. Freedman thinks that Hitler lives near her, but that's sort of different). I guess it works because it introduces an element of danger and suspense without putting anyone in danger. And it allows for vicarious snooping!

Underneath the thriller storyline, too, are some solid details that make this much a strong book. Caroline deals with issues of money and class in very grounded ways: her mother struggles to make ends meet and the family eats whatever vegetable is cheapest at the grocery store; her best friend lives in an apartment with a doorman and eats things like shrimp cocktail. Caroline also is a main character who's fascinated with dinosaurs, and geology, and it's still pretty rare to have a main female character in a middle grade novel who loves science so wholeheartedly. Aside from The Giver, I have a pretty significant Lois Lowry hole in my reading background. The One Hundredth Thing About Caroline confirmed that I need to fix this sooner rather than later.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Switcharound by Lois Lowry
A Summer to Die by Lois Lowry
The Girl with the Silver Eyes by Willo Davis Roberts
Anastasia Krupnik by Lois Lowry
Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself by Judy Blume

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