Review of When My Sister Started Kissing

When My Sister Started Kissing
by Helen Frost
Intermediate, Middle School    Ferguson/Farrar    195 pp.
3/17    978-0-374-30303-7    $16.99    g

Claire and Abigail have few memories of their mother — she died when they were very young — but at their family’s lakeside cabin, the girls are surrounded by the poetry, art, and nature she loved. Then, the summer Claire turns eleven, their widowed father has remarried, his wife is pregnant, and the lake house has been unceremoniously cleaned of their mother’s things. While thirteen-year-old Abi is preoccupied with her first taste of romance, Claire is rattled: when her father says that “we’ll” need space for the baby, she wonders, “That word — we — / slides by so easily, erasing my word — Mom. / I wonder — does it erase Abigail and me?”). Narratively connected poems from each girl’s perspective — and, intermittently, from the observant lake itself — paint an intimate portrait of quiet family tumult amidst a rich and tranquil natural landscape. Eager Abi’s free-verse poems are brief, with staggered lines that move forward across the page, while hesitant Claire’s poems are lengthier, written in sturdy quatrains with patterned rhyme. The characters occasionally seem too eloquent for their years (for example, Abi likens a kiss to “a thousand memories, a million maybes”). However, Frost’s depiction of these resilient sisters’ tentative steps toward maturity is deft, tender, and gently contemplative; hand this to readers not quite ready for This One Summer (rev. 7/14). Appended with a note on the poetic forms employed and the poems Frost uses as armatures for the lake’s acrostic poems.

From the March/April 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
Jessica Tackett MacDonald

Jessica Tackett MacDonald is a collection development librarian at the Boston Public Library, specializing in youth and teen collections. She holds masters degrees in library science and children’s literature from Simmons University.

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