Where there are far more questions than answers, including my curiosity about why this is YA and not middle grade?
Eleven girls went to the park with their teacher, but eleven girls came back from the park, without their teacher. So what happened to Miss Renshaw? Did Morgan, who was avoiding the war and lived in the park and with whom Miss Renshaw was wildly smitten, kill her? Or did they run off together into the vast lands of Australia? Why do the girls share collective silence over what they did or did not see that day in the cave? Why does it take eight years for them to talk about that day together again and share something which they may have constructed entirely for themselves? And is something true if it's been written down? Or do we get to write down what we want the truth to be?
This is a heck of a little book. The story seems quite straight forward, but it's rich with depth, and the writing is strong. The main characters are very young -- late elementary or early middle school -- and the story thus reads through that lens. There is loss of innocence here and it's particularly tough watching that pain happen to the characters as an adult. But I suspect it is precisely at the right level FOR middle grade readers (where, I think, YA readers might not find it as affecting). That's not to say there's not good appeal here for some YA readers, but I suspect it might be one of those books advanced middle grade readers would appreciate very much.
The historical setting works and makes sense, even as an American (it's set in Australia during the Vietnam war). I was struck especially by what it was Icara hid from her peers -- Cubby especially, who she saw as a "friend" -- because it really felt perfectly in the time period and perfectly what someone her age would do.
I keep thinking, too, about what Miss Renshaw said to Icara. She was "too practical" and wasn't enough of a dreamer, and her father's career [ as a judge ]
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