Annabel Pitcher’s debut novel has earned four starred reviews landed on Kirkus’ Best Children’s Books of 2012 and the Atlantic Wire’s YA/Middle-Grade 2012 Book Awards (in the “Most Deftly Handled” category). Originally published in the UK in 2011, this is a haunting story about how grief and hatred destroys families, told through the voice of a 10-year-old boy trying to make sense of it all.
Yes, that’s right. The protagonist is a 10-year-old. Which raises one question right off the bat: Who is this book for? Kirkus lists ages 10-14, while SLJ and the publisher list grades 7-10 (or ages 12-15, roughly). The content is probably best suited to young teens (13 to 15, much as SLJ says), but the voice is so young. Could this be a nostalgia read for that audience? (Do young teens read new books as nostalgia reads??) Does the youth of the protagonist make this more suited for the Newbery audience (of course, as a British import, this isn’t actually eligible for the Newbery at all), and not a true Printz contender? What do we do with these books that really are liminal — not J because of content, not YA because they’re too young? Would this have been better served written for an adult audience, like The Curious Incident of the Dog in a the Night Time or Room, where the thematic scope and young voice don’t pull in different directions, to the detriment of the novel?