FICTION
A Storm of Strawberries
240p. Yellow Jacket. Mar. 2019. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781499808384.
COPY ISBN
Gr 4–6—Twelve-year-old Darby, who has Down Syndrome, comes from a blended family whose strawberry farm is at risk because of a coming tornado. To complicate matters, her older sister Kaydee brings home a weekend guest, Lissa, who is not merely a friend, but a romantic partner. As the storm brings chaos outside, so do the mounting jealousies and misunderstandings within the family. When the romantic and sexual nature of the teenage girls' relationship is made plain to Darby's parents, the confrontation that follows gives Darby the opportunity to stand up for her sister and remind her family of the values of inclusivity and respect. Darby is, at times, deeply reflective and knowing. For example, she waxes poetic about her family situation, artfully invoking the metaphor of a kaleidoscope to describe the patterns of conversations around her. At other times, she is more naive or even confused by commonplace objects or concepts. When the stakes are highest—during and after a confrontation when Kaydee and Lissa are accidentally outed to her parents—the narrative gets muddied by inconsistent behavior on the part of the parents. There are other small problems with the narrative, such as the passing mention that their brother Olly is allergic to strawberries, which is never revisited. The strawberry farm workers, many of whom are immigrants, are undeveloped characters.
VERDICT It is rare to see a middle grade novel starring a protagonist with Down Syndrome; libraries in need of narratives centering people with disabilities may want to seek this out. The inconsistencies and plot holes, however, make this a secondary purchase for most collections.

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