- Turtle under Ice by Juleah del Rosario
del Rosario, Juleah Turtle under Ice. Simon Pulse, 2020 [272p] Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-5344-4295-5 $18.99 E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-5344-4297-9 $10.99 Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 7-10
Row (short for Rowena) is a rising soccer star recognized by everybody in high school; her older sister, Ariana, is an artist who's an isolate even in senior year. After their stepmother, Maribel, undergoes a heartbreaking miscarriage, Ariana rages and then leaves the house, heading out into the snow and hopping a bus without telling anyone she's going. Row and Ariana take turns narrating in free-verse poems as Row grapples with her feelings of abandonment and Ariana contemplates not only the loss of the baby but the death several years ago of their mother, from which she has never recovered. It's a revealing look into how differently two siblings can process a key bereavement; Ariana is frozen in the moment and living defined by her pain, while Row outwardly deflects concern, feels her mother's presence as she plays soccer, and tacitly relies on her sister as a constant. The book keeps the focus on the girls—there are no stepfamily dramas, and the girls are glad to see their father happy again—and details about their heritage (Filipino on their father's side, and seemingly Chamorro, same as the author, on their mother's) are organically included. The result is serious but highly accessible in its compact, prosy verse and unambiguous contemplation of grief and transition, and readers will appreciate the thoughtful, sympathetic exploration.