- Water Balloon
The summer after seventh grade looks to be horrible for Marley Baird, who’s spending the months before school alone with her father after her parents’ recent separation and the end of her “Perfectly Good Life.” Not only has her father obligated her to a babysitting job caring for twin hellions, her two best friends have embarked on the theatrical life in a summer drama program that allows them to rub shoulders with older high-schoolers—and to leave Marley behind. Vernick resembles Frances O’Roark Dowell and Rachel Vail in her ability to bring keen understanding and tender sympathy to the ordinary. Marley’s experience isn’t a hyperdramatic summer of a melodramatic family rediscovery; it’s just the strain of change and unfamiliarity of a house with “the wrong kind of orange juice” and the desperate moments when your friends are refashioning themselves without you alongside them. Her thinning relationship with her friends is portrayed with awful authenticity, with the other two clearly trying on their own new identities and Marley suffering their [End Page 115] anger for not sensing and honoring their new social ambitions. Her adaptation, so gradual that she doesn’t really notice it herself, is credibly and non-didactically depicted, and her reward of a relationship with a genuinely nice neighbor boy is one that readers will envy. Kids struggling with the challenges of identifying what changes are necessary and paying the price for those thrust upon them will be glad to see an author who gets it.