Thursday, January 12, 2012

Out of the Box by Michelle Mulder

Ellie is nervous about spending the entire summer at her aunt's house. She gets along fine with her aunt, but she's only ever spent a couple of weeks there - and that was when Alison, her aunt's partner, was alive. Will Jeanette be different this summer? But even worse than that are Ellie's worries about her parents. They need her at home in order to keep the peace; without her, they could be headed for a divorce. When Ellie arrives at Aunt Jeanette's, she isn't sure how to act, but it isn't long before she settles in, making friends and having fun. She even discovers a rare Argentinian musical instrument with a mysterious past. But no matter how much fun Ellie has at her aunt's place, she can't shake the fear of what's happening at home. Is her family falling apart? And is it all her fault?

It's difficult to read a book where a character as likeable as Ellie has been so thoroughly damaged by a troubled family relationship. Her mother treats her like an adult and expects her daughter to provide support for her issues; her father is emotionally checked-out and spends most of his time avoiding the family altogether. At the same time, though, Ellie has been conditioned to think that any individual thoughts or wants are an indication of a familial rebellion, and her self-esteem is almost nil. Watching her sabotage her friendships and chances at happiness is heartbreaking. The story has many serious elements - Ellie's family trouble, Jeanette's grief and mourning, a subplot about the people who disappeared in Argentina in the late 70s and early 80s - but there's also many fun and sweet elements. It's not a long book, but there is so much power packed into its pages that it would be shame for people to miss this story.

Find it at IndieBound. 

Read it with:
After Peaches by Michelle Mulder
The Gravesavers by Sheree Fitch
Love, Aubrey by Suzanne M. LaFleur

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