Saturday, July 30, 2011

Review of Lexie by Audrey Couloumbis

Couloumbis, Audrey.  Lexie.  Random House, 2011.

Going to the shore is going to be different this summer for almost 11-year-old Lexie; her parents have gotten divorced, so Lexie will be going with her dad while her mother stays home.  Though it feels a bit strange and sad, Lexie is looking forward to both the shore and spending time with her dad - so when Lexie discovers that her dad has invited his girlfriend Vicky and her two sons as well, Lexie is not pleased.

This book isn't about Lexie's feelings about her parents' divorce, as she has clearly done lots of thinking about that already and seems, if not happy about it, at least resigned and perhaps willing to believe that it might be for the best.  Rather, it's about five people trying to figure out how they fit together during one week in a very small beach house. 

Lexie observes and interprets very carefully everything that the people around her say and do.  Although it's not stated, it's obvious to me that she has become, perhaps though months of watching her parents' marriage fall apart, extremely attuned to any sign of discord.  Within the first few hours of Vicky's arrival with 14-year-old Ben and 3-year-old Harris (or "Mack" as he prefers to be called), Lexie can tell that her father's lackadaisical habits, that so infuriated her mother, also bother Vicky - but that Vicky has different reactions to them.  And Lexie can also see how some of Vicky's parenting methods regarding Mack rub her dad the wrong way.  Will all this friction end up causing an argument?  Will Vicky and the two boys leave early?  Lexie doesn't want to share her dad with 3 strangers during this trip - but she doesn't want discord, either.

And as it turns out, Lexie begins to enjoy herself.  She's actually quite good at negotiating tricky interpersonal relationships - when Ben freaks out about a small sand shark, she carefully doesn't mention that they're fairly common and not dangerous, and she overcomes her distaste of Mack's eternally sticky, fuzz-covered hands in order to spend some time with him.  The situation is awkward - and gets more awkward when Lexie learns (from Mack of all people) that her dad plans to marry Vicky - but Lexie likes these people and just wants everyone to get along and feel at ease.

We get to know the characters through Lexie's eyes, and it's Mack who is the most carefully and lovingly drawn character.  Lexie becomes quite fond of him and even admires him for his calm single-minded pursuit of his passion - which is for vehicles.  In fact, Mack sees himself as a vehicle, and constantly emits a low rumbling engine noise.  Ben, as a teenager filled with contradictory feelings about his mom's romance, is a bit beyond Lexie's understanding but not her empathy.

The language is simple and a pure delight to read.  The insights are as meaningful for this middle-aged reader as they will be for 10-year-olds.  And there are many funny, sweet bits to savor all through the book.  I was sorry it ended and would love to read more about these folks.

Highly recommended for ages 8 to 11.

1 comment:

  1. I loved this one SO MUCH. I read it in the hotel at ALA Midwinter, insisted on my sister listening to pieces, and have been pushing it on kids all summer. It was my special book this year!