Holiday House. Nov. 2023. 272p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780823452330.
Gr 5 Up–This heartfelt, intense story is written in verse and filled with heavy topics and emotional moments. Claire, an eighth grader vacationing with her parents in Maine, is a typical preteen pushing boundaries, but is aware enough to realize there is a problem in her family. Claire’s mom and dad are no longer happily married, and Claire wants life to go back to when everyone talked and laughed with one another. She hoped the trip would help, but it only seems to make the growing chasm more real. During lunch one day, her mom confides a very big secret and then collapses from a ruptured brain aneurysm. Claire’s mom survives, but the recovery is long. Plus, she doesn’t seem to remember sharing the secret with Claire but not her husband. How long can the girl carry this secret from the grown-ups it affects, and how long will she be able to cope with seeing her mom so changed? This story is packed with beautiful emotions, conveyed by equally apt descriptions; even though there are few words on the page, every word matters. The hospital stay is described in great detail, from the frightening early days for Claire to all the overwhelming medical jargon. A survivor of two aneurysms, Fritz captures the trauma and recovery journey of this difficult experience with accuracy and skill. A poignant story that gives children many examples of resilience amid scary life moments, such as parental death and divorce.
VERDICT Librarians with readers craving angsty, realistic fiction without having to commit to a full prose novel would be well-served to add this title to their collection.

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