Casey Whitman is fourteen and ready for another fun summer at the Jersey Shore. As a year-round resident of Cranberry Cove, a fictional town based on the real town of Lavallette, New Jersey, she’s excited to be with her best summer buddies, Phoebe Pendleton and Nick Alexander. She can’t wait to hit the beach and ride the waves on her boogie board.
The three have been summer friends for years, but this year the dynamic changes when Nick arrives from North Jersey and Phoebe does a double-take: Nick is hot! And who’s that guy with him? It’s Zack, Nick’s friend from home, also hot with big brown eyes. Although Casey is a sporty girl and new to the idea of love and romance, she’s ready to give it a try. But she’s not sure about Zack because Phoebe’s lifeguard brother, Jase is also looking good. Sigh…what’s a girl with the whole summer ahead of her to do?
What follows is nice middle grade read about the ups and downs of teenage love. The idyllic town of Cranberry Cove is a great backdrop for this story, where Casey and her friends spend their days on boogie boards and boats and their nights on the beach. And although the young love setting and storyline are light, the author introduces the more serious themes of divorce, drinking and sexual abuse, with clearly defined good guys and bad guys.
Susan Kotch is a native of the Jersey Shore and accurately describes the low key summer town scene – bicycles, mini golf, ice cream, flip flops and salt air. Likewise, the book’s attractive cover promises a light and fun experience. And while some of her descriptions are a little wordy and repetitive, reading more like a teenage girl’s diary, the plot moves quickly and retains reader interest. The author is strongest with dialogue and, by including the friends’ realistic text messages, she puts the reader in the teenage mind. Adults are rarely present in the story, leaving judgement to Casey and her friends, a somewhat unrealistic scenario, but appealing to the independent teenage reader.
And while some of the action scenes are awkward, particularly the boat race, where racing rules and procedures are loosely presented, the author moves quickly to the next plot segment, writing more comfortably about what’s familiar to her. (As a side note, anyone who knows sailboat racing would notice that having Casey crew on a Laser, a one-person boat, is a bit of a problem. There would be little for a crew to do on a Laser, even if she fit on the boat, and it would most certainly make them less competitive, and put them at the back of the fleet.)
Casey of Cranberry Cove is a fun story for girls, with a satisfying plot and resolution and a solid moral message. And mark your calendar! Casey embarks on a new adventure as a high school freshman in Casey Whitman: High Flyer, due in 2016.
I received a copy of Casey of Cranberry Cove in exchange for an honest review.
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