Review of Love to Everyone

Love to Everyone
by Hilary McKay
Intermediate, Middle School    McElderry    330 pp.
9/18    978-1-5344-2710-5    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-1-5344-2712-9    $10.99

In Binny in Secret (rev. 7/15), McKay introduced us to Clarry, her brother Peter, and their beloved cousin Rupert in a subplot set during World War I in London. Here, McKay gives us the full story of these three: stubborn, grumpy Peter; kind, charismatic Rupert; and especially Clarry, adoring of the boys and, as a girl, destined to stay home and care for her selfish, neglectful father. As the three grow up, Peter is sent to boarding school; Rupert enlists in the army; and Clarry defies her father’s apathy and earns a place in an academically rigorous girls’ high school. Then Rupert is declared missing, “presumed dead,” and Clarry sets off to find him. This is a story both broad and deep, sketching the scope of the Western Front (shaped like a “ravenous, expectant smile. A greedy, unreasonable smile, considering how very, very well it was fed”) but drawing us closely into Clarry’s heart and mind as she emerges valiantly into adulthood. McKay’s genius as a writer is everywhere apparent: she conveys complex nuances of character with a light hand, moving gracefully from the hilarious to the heart-breaking; she paints scenes with spare, lucid detail (for example, a blackbird turns over dead leaves “like someone flicking through a book to find the illustrations”). Buoyant with the warmth of family love and friendship, and especially with McKay’s witty, incisive style, this exceptional novel invites — and amply rewards — re-reading.

From the November/December 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
Deirdre Baker
Deirdre Baker
Deirdre F. Baker, a reviewer for The Horn Book Magazine and the Toronto Star, teaches children’s literature at the University of Toronto. The author of Becca at Sea (Groundwood), she is currently at work on a sequel—written in the past tense.

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