Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Review of Old Photographs

Fourteen-year-old Phoebe Hecht is slowly making her way through the long boring days of summer vacation. It doesn’t help that her mom’s marriage to a wealthy heart surgeon means that they’ve left their old, comfortable lives behind – so much so that her mom now seems ashamed at the merest mention of their humble beginnings. Now they live in a fancy Toronto neighborhood where she doesn’t belong, and the only friend she made at her new school, Yuri Kimura, has gone to Tokyo for the summer. The only thing getting Pheobe through the summer is her obsession with Agatha Christie mysteries and her covert spying on Colin, her crush who works at the local grocery store.
A chance meeting with a kind elderly neighbor named Mrs. Tomblin changes everything and brings all Phoebe’s interests together. When Mrs. Tomblin is robbed and assaulted she can’t remember anything about what happened, due to the fact that she is in the early stages of dementia. It is up to Phoebe and Colin to try and solve the mystery of the robbery. Could Mrs. Tomblin’s collection of old photographs be at the centre of the puzzle?

[from Second Story Press]
Rating:   3.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Aspiring young detectives, anyone looking for a solid read
High point:  Phoebe and the writing
Low point:  A little simple
Reader maturity:  10+

Old Photographs is a really cute story about Phoebe, a bored Canadian girl stuck in a new town with no friends for a summer. She's an aspiring detective, inspired by Agatha Christie, and stumbles onto a mystery of her own when she befriends an elderly woman in the early stages of Alzheimer's.

Phoebe is a fun narrator, obsessing just enough over her crush, Colin, and not complaining too much about her new family. She sticks up for what she believes in, helping out an elderly woman and finally finding the strength to tell her mother the truth. The only thing I didn't like about Phoebe is that she lies--A LOT, like it's no big deal. I understand why she lies, but it still bugged me.

At first glance, Colin is too perfect to be true, but it soon becomes clear that the reader's view of Colin is through Phoebe's rose-colored (for Colin) glasses. After that point, her idolization becomes endearing because she's not oblivious but rather blinded by puppy love.

I didn't like Phoebe's new family (and I wasn't supposed to). They were well-written and believably unlikable, with both good and bad traits blended together for realism. Mrs. Tomblin provided an outlet for Phoebe's detective skills and also showcased Phoebe's kind side, which was often hidden under the smothering of her personailty by her mother and stepfather.

Old Photographs provides a strong, if simple, plot to keep the reader engaged. The whodunit is a little predictable, but this novel isn't so much about the end as it is the journey, navigating relationships, finding a voice and growing up. The writing is a little simpler than most YA, so it's probably best for younger YA readers but is also accessible for anyone wanting a solid novel to while away the summer (or fall) hours. It's also completely clean so it's appropriate for anyone able to read it.

Title:  Old Photographs
Author:  Sherie Posesorski
Genre:   Fiction - Contemporary
Year:   2010
Book Source:  Received for review from Second Story Press

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