- Things That Grow by Meredith Goldstein
Trade ed. ISBN 9781328770103 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 9780358531807 $9.99
Reviewed from digital galleys R* Gr. 8–12
Lori is devastated when her grandmother unexpectedly dies; she has lived with [End Page 296] Grandma Sheryl in their Boston suburb ever since Grandma insisted that Lori’s flighty mother wasn’t providing the stability that Lori needed. Now she has to deal with the loss and the threat of having to move away to live with her mother instead of spending her last year of high school in Massachusetts with her best friend, partner in creative enterprise, and secret love Chris. As she negotiates her future, she, her uncle Seth, Chris, and sometimes Lori’s mother and Mom’s new boyfriend travel to various glorious garden sites to scatter the ashes of Grandma Sheryl, who wanted her remains left with “things that grow.” Lori’s characterization is pitch perfect as a fantasy-loving, goth-tending teen with a competent, smart-mouthed narration, and other characters, ranging from nearly-boyfriend Chris to loving but flawed Uncle Seth to the Garden Girls who were Grandma Sheryl’s crew, are limned with affection and dimension. There’s a reliable and cinematic quality to the four-gardens-after-a-funeral plot as the travelers haul Grandma Sheryl’s “craisins” (as Lori’s mom malapropishly terms the cremains) around New England in a Chico’s bag, contend with their loss, learn more about one another, and, in Lori and Chris’ case, consider expanding their relationship. Goldstein’s writing is lively and often hilarious (Uncle Seth requests the cremains be divided into the maximum possible boxes because “it’s the best deal, right?”), but it’s also sensitive in its exploration of character facets such as Lori’s reluctance to confess her romantic feelings to Chris, respectful in its treatment of Lori’s writing and Chris’ art, and genuinely poignant as the family grieves. Fans of Feder’s Dancing at the Pity Party (BCCB 4/20) will love the dark humor, and Nicola Yoon admirers will appreciate the realistically uncertain romance.