ONE CAME HOME by Amy Timberlake came out way back in January and has waited patiently for some attention on this blog. It falls into a subgenre that I think on the whole is overrated and overrepresented: Spunky/Feisty/Quirky Girl with a Southern/Country/Folksy Voice and a Dead/Missing/Absent Mother (or in this case Sister). When it’s done well, though, I’m as much of a sucker as anyone. I’m going to spell out the couple of reasons that this one slips from Newbery to Notables in my estimation, and let others argue its defense below in the comments.
First of all, there are some plausibility problems. I never believed that anybody–not the sheriff, not her family–would let the girl identify the alleged body of a sister who’s had her head shot off. Some people had a hard time believing that she could be such a crack shot; for me, it was that the girl who is a crack shot has probably ridden a horse before. Minor problems, these, but nagging ones nevertheless.
My second reservation is that the focus of the book seemed diffuse. Was it a mystery–or a coming of age story? Did the book lack the proper closure without a reunion with the sister? Again, something just seemed a bit off to me, and as with COUNTING BY 7s, I would need a reread to figure out what I really think about it, and whether it’s a serious problem or not.