Thursday, July 3, 2014

Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord

Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord is a summer story about photography, loons, and friendship.

When Lucy's family moves to a lakeside cottage in New Hampshire, she is apprehensive about making new friends. When she meets Nate, the boy next door, she is relieved to find him friendly, though sad to discover that he is only visiting for the summer. Lucy joins Nate in a variety of summer activities, including kayaking out to observe a pair of nesting loons. Nate's Grandma Lilah has always loved the loons, but she is no longer able to go on the observational trips. In fact, Grandma Lilah is in the early stages of dementia, and this is probably her last summer at the lake, Lucy, an enthusiastic amateur photographer, captures images of the loons and of other activities she shares with Nate, in order to help Grandma Lilah feel included in the summer activities. Lucy plans to enter her summer photos into a competition -- but when she takes a telling photo that reveals Grandma Lilah's emotional state in a moment of distress, Lucy and Nate disagree about whether Lucy should use that photo. If Lucy wins the competition, she plans to use the prize money to rent a pontoon boat to take Grandma Lilah out to see the loons -- but is that a good enough reason to disregard Nate's feelings and risk her friendship with him?

This brief book really captures the feeling of a lakeside summer. That, and the complex emotional interactions between the characters, are its strongest points. The plot is a little scant, but the story is more about feelings and relationships than about events and adventures. Not even touched on in the above summary are Lucy's complex relationship with her father who is a professional photographer, and her interactions with Megan, a longtime friend of Nate's who obviously struggles with jealousy and becomes something of a frenemy to Lucy. This is a nice summertime read, but not a favorite of the year for me.

(Reviewed from an advance copy, courtesy of the publisher.)

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