Review of When Sea Becomes Sky

When Sea Becomes Sky When Sea Becomes Sky
by Gillian McDunn
Intermediate    Bloomsbury    288 pp.
2/23    9781547610853    $16.99
e-book ed.  9781547610860    $11.89

Bex dreams of becoming a writer, and usually the words flow from her pencil. But not this summer; now she has more erasures than words. Her younger brother, Davey, gives Bex some advice: “Writers must tell the truth thoroughly, constantly, and recklessly. Do that and the words will come.” It’s advice Bex appears to follow as she describes how she and Davey find a mysterious statue near their home in the North Carolina salt marsh. For years, it had been covered by a river (a body of water Davey will not enter but dubs the River Sticks), but it is now increasingly visible as the water recedes during a serious drought. Bex decides on the perfect summer plan: the two of them will discover the statue’s provenance. Their exclusivity makes sense, as Davey appears to be selectively mute around everyone but Bex and she’s had a falling-out with her best friend. However, a sudden revelation midway through the novel shatters that presumed truth-telling. McDunn (Honestly Elliott, rev. 3/22) has written a story that the character of Davey would want to read: “This book starts happy, gets sad, and then at the end, it’s happy and sad mixed up together. That’s what makes it special, that it has both.”

From the January/February 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Betty Carter
Betty Carter, an independent consultant, is professor emerita of children’s and young adult literature at Texas Woman’s University.

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