The Line Tender

384p. Penguin. Apr. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780735231603.
Gr 5–8—Twelve-year-old Lucy Everhart is growing up in the 90s in Rockport, MA, five years after her mother, a marine-biologist and shark specialist, passed away. As a summer assignment, she creates a field guide with her best friend, Fred, who is as much of a science enthusiast as Lucy's mother was. Her relationship with Fred becomes more complicated as the two begin developing feelings for one another—then Fred suddenly dies in an accident. Lucy copes with his death by delving into her mother's unfinished research with the help of her father, a local fisherman, and an elderly neighbor. The four form a bond which helps them all to overcome their own personal struggles. Lucy is a grounded, relatable character and the way she processes her grief is believable. Allen skillfully tackles the difficult issues without becoming too didactic or morose. The inclusion of women scientists, including Lucy's mother and, later, one of Lucy's mother's colleagues, is welcome as is Lucy's own budding interest in marine biology. A two-page black-and-white sketch of a different shark accompanies each chapter, reflecting Lucy's own affinity for art.
VERDICT Thoughtful and moving, this coming-of-age middle grade novel is a worthwhile addition to any collection serving middle school students.

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