Elodee & her twin, Naomi, are 11 years old. Their family has been through a traumatic year and Elodee is lost in the torrent of strong emotions raging inside her. Mom gets a new job in Eventown and everyone hopes it will be the “fresh start” they need–individually and as a family.
Eventown was a 3.5/5 star read for me. I tried twice to read this book earlier this year because it kept showing up on Newbery buzz lists and I put it aside; I just could not get into the story–for whatever reason. Third time’s the charm I guess, because this time I did feel engaged with Elodee’s character. The way Elodee grapples with overwhelming emotions is beautifully written and makes it clear to me why so many people have been talking about this book. There are tangible, realistic examples of the complicated journey of grief and how it differs for everyone. It’s a beautiful story that expounds the well-known theme from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s work: ‘It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.’
I had one issue throughout the story and that was the author’s keeping the traumatic event that set everything into motion unexplained until page 295 of 326. Now, I realized what the event was before this point in the book, but it is not expressly related until this point in the book. This bothers me because I feel manipulated by the author: it feels to me like the author is saying ‘something happened but I’m not going to tell you what it is because I want to do a big reveal later in the book.’ The fact that this reveal didn’t happen until the last 10% of the book annoyed me. Because it had been obliquely referred to so many times, by the time I reached it on page 295 I didn’t care as much as I did earlier in the book. Related to this point, I felt that from the time the traumatic event is revealed until the end of the book Elodee’s voice no longer sounds genuine; it begins to sound like the voice of an adult narrator who is trying to close her story by making sure you understand the thematic points she has been trying to make.
So, overall, I did enjoy Eventown. I did not like the structure or language of the ending and that last 10% lowered–for me–the pleasure of the reading experience I was having. Eventown is a wonderful example of a character-driven middle-grade novel. If you know a young reader who enjoys that type of structure and story, then Eventown is probably a good pick for him/her.