In Herbsman's debut novel, 15-year-old Savannah Brown is contending with a strict but loving mother as well as frequent, serious asthma attacks, something she inherited from her long-absent father, Trip ("he tripped right on out of our lives when I was barely out of diapers"). Savannah, who needs constant medical care and attention, begins a relationship with an older boy from out of town, and her mother is more than a little protective. Only after Jackson proves that he is a responsible and caring boyfriend does Savannah's mother begin to let go. Told in the first person and thick with Southern vernacular, the novel offers a snapshot of Savannah's quickly-changing life. Displaying maturity and independence, as well as faith in the strength of her new relationship with Jackson, Savannah decides to attend a prestigious college program for promising high school seniors. While some of the story remains underdeveloped, such as the clairvoyance that Savannah occasionally alludes to possessing, the cast of characters holds the story together, and the people in Savannah's life are warm and real. Ages 12-up.
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This debut novel is a sweet, low-key romance . . . Readers will look forward to more from this talented new author.
VOYA - Jennifer McConnel
Named for a tornado that was devastating Georgia at the time of her birth, Savannah Georgina Brown is a charming, conflicted character. Growing up in a small coastal town in North Carolina, Savannah has always known that someday she would fly the coop and discover bigger and better things in the world. The summer she turns fifteen and a half, however, Savannah contemplates throwing away all her chances to leave town. The cause of her dramatic change of heart is eighteen-year-old Jackson Channing, who has arrived in town to stay with relatives. The entire tragedy and uncertainty of his young life grabs hold of Savannah the first time they meet. From the start, the two are inseparable, literally saving each others' lives twice. But when Jackson is called home, Savannah starts to panic: how will she be able to breathe without him? With a narrative voice that feels as comfortable and authentic as Judy Blume's yet captures the regional dialect of the Southeast, Herbsman perfectly nails the angst, innocence, and beauty of falling in love for the first time. The creative use of Savannah's life-threatening asthma as a symbol of her dependence on others is not heavy handed and is utterly believable. This book is sure to reach teen readers in a way that few books can: as she embarks on a summer of passion and discovery, Savannah might just be the girl next door . . . or the girl in the mirror. Reviewer: Jennifer McConnel
Children's Literature - Judy DaPolito
Savannah Georgina Brown, so named because a tornado in Savannah Georgia was the first thing her mother heard about on the radio after her birth, is fifteen years old and bored with her life. She lives with her mother and her twelve-year-old brother Dog in a tiny town on the Carolina coast, and her first-person story is told in the local dialect. Savannah is very bright and hard working. She is the top student in her English class and has been nominated for the one semester Program for Promising High School Students, held in the Blue Ridge Mountains. But she knows her mother does not have the tuition money and that only fifty students from both Carolinas will be chosen, so she does not expect to go. This summer she is working at the library, studying for her SATs, reading romance novels, and dreaming of going to college, seeing the mountains, and traveling the world. Then she meets Jackson Channing, an eighteen-year-old boy from Greenville who is living with relatives for the summer. In spite of their age difference and Savannah's mother's worries about it, they fall in love. Savannah's other problem is her asthma, which often lands her in the hospital. But it is Jackson's concern for Savannah when she is hospitalized that begins to break down her mother's objections. When Jackson's mother needs him at home, Savannah feels as if her world has fallen apart and she schemes to bring him back. She slowly learns that she cannot demand that he ignore his family and that each of them has to have a separate existence as well as the one they share. The book focuses on Savannah's romance with Jackson, but Mrs. Brown, whose husband left right after Dog's birth and who has mourned the end of hermarriage ever since, also falls in love and appears likely to marry Dennis Johnson, a painting contractor who hires Jackson. At the end of the story, Savannah has been chosen for the high school program, Jackson is taking art classes at the local junior college, and everyone's future looks positive. The characters are distinctive and appealing, though the outcomes seem a little too good to be true. Reviewer: Judy DaPolito
School Library Journal
This sappy teen romance is set during the summer in "an itty bitty town on the Carolina coast." When Savannah, 15, meets out-of-towner Jackson, 18, it's pretty much love at first sight. Savannah is plagued with uncontrolled asthma, which is used to move the plot along and provide some much-needed drama. In fact, the asthma is a metaphor for Savannah's feelings about both her father (it started the day he deserted the family 12 years ago) and Jackson (she always seems to breathe easier when he's nearby). It also serves to mirror her feelings of control over her own life. Savannah and Jackson must endure a brief, but oh-so-painful separation when he has to return home to help his newly widowed mama cope with his brothers, but true hearts are meant to be together. Though the lesson is endearing, as both teens are supportive of and sweet to one another and to their respective families, the novel itself is uninspired. Southern dialect is used in the first-person narration as well as the dialogue, and the language (sprinkled generously with cuss words) quickly becomes tedious. While many of the emotions expressed are spot-on, even devoted romance fans will soon become bored with the book's underdeveloped characters, minimal conflict, and difficult-to-believe coincidences.-Robin Henry, Wakeland High School, Frisco, TX
Fifteen-year-old Savannah Brown expects an ordinary summer on the Carolina Coast, hanging out with her friends, working at the library and studying for the SATs-she aims to be the first in her family to go to college. Everything changes, however, when a handsome, earnest young man by the name of Jackson appears on the beach and sweeps her off her feet. Savannah's love for Jackson is soon so strong that she believes his presence keeps her asthma at bay, so what is she to do when she's accepted into a prestigious program that will separate them for several months? And what is she to make of the fact that it is Jackson who turned in her application? The struggle to sustain an intense romance while holding tight to one's dreams drives this story, which is strengthened by a strong sense of place and a compelling narrative voice. As she works things out, Savannah can be painfully melodramatic, but it's that very quality that makes her seem so real. (Fiction. 12 & up)