City girl Matisse is transplanted from Manhattan to small town Prague due to her father’s Parkinson’s disease and she’s none too happy about it. Instead of art galleries and indie films, Prague’s main attractions are the fall hay ride and a very bad tempered goose. But as her father’s symptoms worsen, Matisse’s attempts to ignore the grave situation and to push everyone out of her life come to a head.
This was the first of two books I read for the Nerds Heart YA Tournament (the other being David Yoo’s STOP ME IF YOU’VE HEARD THIS ONE BEFORE) and I have to say that I do think it’s very deserving of a bigger audience. The subject matter is not that typical for YA lit and it fills a void in the “living with a sick parent” genre (with emphasis on living since no one dies). It is well written, well researched, and genuinely moving in parts.
Because the story is about Matisse’s journey from denial and rebellion to acceptance of her new life situation it is the kind of book that you know where the story is going from the moment you pick it up. Yes, it’s predictable, but I think it needs to go where you think it’s going to go to be effective.
You could chart Matisse’s journey by the lunches she brought to school over the course of the book. In the beginning she brings spinach salad, French Brie, edamame and other fancy foods as a way of both holding on to her city girl identity and subtly sending a message to her new classmates that she’s above them. By the end, she’s happily eating country vegetables such as summer squash and thinking about just how yummy Prague’s famous apples really are.
But make no mistake, it takes the bulk of the book for Matisse to grow from whiny brat to sympathetic fighter, and although the last few chapters are satisfying and enjoyable to read, you have to go through a lot of hard times with Matisse to get there. It’s great that Author Daphne Grab breaks up some of the heaviness with a few family flashbacks on happier times and comic relief subplots such as rebel without a clue Cranston/Dylan and the aforementioned goose, because otherwise this might feel too much like “required reading”.
Tune in tomorrow when I review STOP ME and Ali and I make our final decision about which book moves on in the tournament.