by Celeste Conway
for ages 12 and up
AS LONG AS she can remember, Anna has lived in the same Upper West Side apartment with her parents and brother, Tom; she’s attended the same private school and had the same best friend, Katie. Katie has always loved hanging out with Anna’s family and escaping the tension in her own small apartment, where her single mom struggles to raise her severely mentally challenged brother.
But then something changes. Katie’s brother gets violent with her mother and now he’s going to live in a home. Suddenly Katie is angry with Anna, and just as quickly they’re not friends anymore. Anna’s mom tells her that Katie just needs someone to be mad at right now, and that everything will be okay, but Anna knows that she has entered the Goodbye Time—and things are changing faster than she can understand.
A Division of Random House)
ISBN 978-0-73339-9 (0-385-7339-9).
Ages 12 and up.
The Melting Season
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“Conway writes in the true, clear voice of a fifth grader. Like most young girls, Anna has moments of insecurity; she has an intense friendship with her best friend, Katy, and a deep relationship with her parents and older brother. Then, as her friendship with Katy becomes rocky, her beloved brother heads off to Harvard, and she no longer has the joy of her make-believe world where she pretended to be a character in a television show. With the support of her parents, she is able to work through her unhappiness about the changes in her life. Readers are introduced to issues of socioeconomic status in a realistic, yet gentle way. Anna has so much in the material sense that she truly does not understand what it is like to be Katy, who has a single mom and a younger brother with developmental disabilities who must be sent to an institution when he becomes uncontrollable. Conway gives children a way to think about the lives of those who have a much more difficult time in a way that is enlightening without being preachy.”
“Narrator Anna enjoys a happy, uneventful life on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and one of its many anchors is her enduring friendship with Katy. Since Katy, her older sister, and her severely disabled brother are being reared by their single mom, who’s really too stressed out by work and problems with her brother to pay a lot of quality attention to her daughter, Katy spends a lot of time over at Anna’s. The girls sort through thier small problems with a game they play, pretending to be the characters on a popular (and fictional) British television show about a rock star, even though they know that they are getting too old to play what is really just a version of house. Too soon, though, they are faced with real world losses and separations: Katy’s brother becomes violent and needs to be institutionalized, Anna’s fifteen-year-old brother is heading off to early admission into Harvard, and one of their friends from school (Anna’s crush) loses his father and has to move away. Katy takes her anger and grief over the situation with her brother out on Anna, whose life seems too perfect, and Anna has to work through a grieving process of her own as she faces her first interpersonal conflicts. Conway is spot-on with the sensibilities of fifth-graders: on the verge of change, still privately clinging to their elementary-school pleasures like Barbies and playing house, they are mortified to be outed for their childish pastimes and starting to care about fashion and relationships. The adults, including Anna’s older brother, say the kinds of things wise and responsive adults say in situations like this, but it’s clear that these are just experiences Anna and Katy have to go through, and that their friendship will be the stronger for it. Gentle, ordinary, and serious, this is a good entry into the contemporary realistic novel for young readers.”