Winnie Nash Is Not Your Sunshine

Algonquin. Apr. 2024. 256p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781643753133.
Gr 3-7–No one asked Winnie, 12, but she’s spending the summer with her grandma while her parents work; her mom is pregnant again after several miscarriages and bouts of depression, and no one is talking about it. Winnie’s parents have told her not to tell her grandma that she’s gay, which she’s known since she was four. Being sent away and forced into the closet makes upsets Winnie, but she acquiesces because she wants her mom to be happy. She makes friends with talkative Pippa Lai and quiet Lucía Delgado. Winnie wants to “feel held” by those closest to her, but her parents and grandma are unpracticed at having honest conversations. Bottling up her fears drives Winnie to seek escape, which finally precipitates some frank family conversations and support. The effect of miscarriages on (potential) siblings is rarely addressed in fiction, and Melleby handles it with great sensitivity. Winnie herself is a tangle, but readers will understand how her actions stem from her feelings of sadness, frustration, fear, and her idea that there is a limited number of smiles to go around. She's placed in an unusual situation and given uncomfortable instructions; though no reference to friends from home is made, readers might infer that Winnie would interact with Pippa and Lucía differently if she were allowed to be herself instead of having to hide.
VERDICT It’s not a perfect summer at the beach, but Winnie’s feelings are perfectly real, and the resolution is satisfying and hopeful. Highly recommended.

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