To be fair. This is not my kind of story. 12-year-old Odette spends the first half of the book whining about everything. Yes, I get it. Her almost seventh grade voice is not heard in this family of four. Her dad has quit his job and bought a used motor home. He and her mom have sold the house and most of their belongings. Their plan is to take a road trip north from southern California to visit Odette’s ailing grandmother on Orcas Island, hundreds of miles away.
Making matters worse for Odette–they have to share one cell phone on the journey, she may never see her best friend again, and her annoying little brother is even more annoying in the closed quarters of the RV. She doesn’t even like the stupid mutt her dad bought for her to appease the situation. All I could think at the halfway point: this can’t continue on forever. Characters in MG books change, but this one was taking her own sweet time.
Thanks goodness for Grandma Sissy, Harris–a boy she meets, and yes the little dog. They all bring hope to a hopeless situation and Odette does change in somewhat surprising ways. FAR FROM FAIR is not one you’d want to read during the holidays as sadness is a major theme. Words about cancer and assisted suicide are the main sources, though both are handled with respect and dignity.
Thanks to the few smiles along the way and the final pages, I was glad to have finished Odette’s story.
PUBLICATION DATE: 2016 PAGE COUNT: 240
FULL PLOT (From AMAZON) Odette Zyskowski has a list: Things That Aren’t Fair. At the top of the list is her parents’ decision to take the family on the road in an ugly RV they’ve nicknamed the Coach. There’s nothing fair about leaving California and living in the cramped Coach with her parents and exasperating younger brother, sharing one stupid cell phone among the four of them. And there’s definitely nothing fair about what they find when they reach Grandma Sissy’s house, hundreds of miles later. Most days it seems as if everything in Odette’s life is far from fair. Is there a way for her to make things right?
With warmth and sensitivity, Elana K. Arnold makes the difficult topics of terminal illness and the right to die accessible to young readers.
FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT: FAR FROM FAIR by Elana K. Arnold
- The author provides hope in the middle of helplessness, which in the hands of a less skilled writer would be a mess.
- Middle graders will see themselves in at least one of the angry feelings and/or unfair situations Odette is put through. They might even discover a new way to deal with their own lives.
- There are some very profound messages put forth here in a quiet, acceptable manner.
- Grandma Sissy has some of the best lines which serve as lessons for Odette (Little brother Rex also has a few of his own).
- The imperfections of life have never been so clearly put down in words for upper MG readers.
FAVORITE LINES: It could be a zombie. Maybe that’s why the Coach was for sale in the first place. Maybe it was zombie-infested.
Odette opened her eyes. She stood up and squared her shoulders. She pulled back the shower curtain.
It wasn’t a zombie. It was Rex’s ferret, a long white tube of a creature, snuffling around by the shower drain
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: ELANA K. ARNOLD completed her M.A. in Creative Writing/Fiction at the University of California, Davis. She grew up in Southern California, where she was lucky enough to have her own horse–a gorgeous mare named Rainbow–and a family who let her read as many books as she wanted. She lives in Huntington Beach, California, with her husband, two children, and a menagerie of animals. (From Elana’s Website)
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