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June 2023

The first book in this trilogy, Stepping on the Cracks, is narrated by Margaret. Margaret and her best friend Elizabeth both have brothers fighting in World War II. The girls are not only worried about their brothers, but also about the school bully, Gordon Smith. Gordy makes the girls’ lives miserable. When the girls find out a secret about Gordy and his family, they try to use it to their advantage at first, but are quickly drawn into trying to help Gordy.

Following My Own Footsteps takes up where the first book left off–this time with Gordy as narrator. Gordy, his mom and siblings have moved to live with his grandmother. Under her care, Gordy begins to work harder in school, and even makes a friend. Then Gordy’s dad returns, and Gordy must decide what to do.

In As Ever, Gordy, Gordy returns to his hometown to live with his big brother and family. Everyone remembers Gordy as both a failure and the class bully, and that’s how they continue to treat him. Gordy soon falls back into his old ways and although his feelings for his old enemy Elizabeth have changed, he doesn’t know how to change his behavior.

The best part of this trilogy was the way the narrator switched from Margaret to Gordy. In the first book, you sympathize with the girls’ point of view, and even though you feel bad for Gordy, you don’t really like him much. He’s just too mean, and he reminds you of every bully you’ve ever known. But once Gordy begins to tell his story, you immediately understand why he acts the way he does. The change in Gordy’s character is all the more understandable and real, because it’s seen from two points of view.

Jessica is horrified when she is chosen by her 7th grade teacher to be Daphne’s partner for a book-writing contest. Daphne is the reject in their class, and Jessica would much rather work with one of the popular girls, which would do more for Jessica’s social standing. However, once Jessica and Daphne begin work on their book, Jessica discovers that not only is Daphne a wonderful illustrator, but she’s a good friend too. Jessica must wrestle with her loyalties to Daphne and her desire to be accepted by the popular girls. In addition, Daphne lives with her senile grandmother in terrible conditions. Jessica tries to figure out how to help Daphne without separating her from her grandmother.

Jessica’s struggle between acceptance and doing the right thing is very realistic. Anyone who has ever been in 7th grade can certainly sympathize with her.

Spencer and Lauren were childhood friends who went their separate ways during high school. During their senior year, they reconnect and soon fall in love. However, Spencer is haunted by a terrible family secret, which threatens to destroy their relationship. Lauren tries to help Spencer, but can’t, and neither of their parents provide much support or help. It finally takes a crisis to get Spencer the help that he needs.

This book seems to glorify dysfunctional relationships and behaviors. At the end, you are left with a feeling that even thought Spencer appears to be getting help, Lauren will still be doomed to a caretaker role for the rest of the relationship. Not very inspiring.

Diana and her brother Georgie have lived in the woods near the old Willis place for as long as they can remember. According to “rules” they are not allowed to leave the property nor talk to anyone, although they don’t know why. One day a new caretaker moves in, along with his daughter Lissa. Out of loneliness, Diana becomes friends with Lissa. As a result of their friendship, the rules are broken and everything begins to change.

Not terribly scary, as it is juvenile fiction. I like how forgiveness is emphasized over revenge.

A young adult vampire/ghost story set in a creepy hotel in Maine. Surprisingly suspenseful. Illustrates how evil can both exaggerate and prey on your worries and fears.

My only complaint is that the ending is too neatly wrapped up. To be truly scary, the reader should be left with the feeling that the evil is still lurking nearby.