High Dive

High Dive

4.0 1
by Tammar Stein

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Arden has a plane ticket to Sardinia to say goodbye to her family’s beloved vacation home after her father’s sudden death and her mother’s deployment to Iraq as an army nurse. Lonely for her father and petrified for her mother’s safety, Arden dreads her trip to the house in Sardinia—the only place that has truly felt like home to her.

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Arden has a plane ticket to Sardinia to say goodbye to her family’s beloved vacation home after her father’s sudden death and her mother’s deployment to Iraq as an army nurse. Lonely for her father and petrified for her mother’s safety, Arden dreads her trip to the house in Sardinia—the only place that has truly felt like home to her. So when she meets a group of fun, carefree, and careless friends on their summer break, she decides to put off her trip and join them to sample the sights and culinary delights of Europe. Soon they are climbing the Eiffel Tower, taking in the French countryside on a train chugging toward the Alps, and gazing at Michelangelo’s David in Florence, all the while eating gelato and sipping cappuccino. Arden tries to forget about the danger her mom faces every day, to pretend she’s just like the rest of the girls, flirting with cute European guys and worried only about where to party next.
But the house in Sardinia beckons and she has to make a choice. Is Arden ready to jump off the high dive?

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Editorial Reviews

KLIATT - Myrna Marler
Although the cover features a pair of swimmer's feet as she dives from a cliff into the water below, there is little actual diving in this novel. The "high dive" is, of course, metaphorical and represents 19-year-old Arden's leap away from the safe and the expected into the unknown. She is propelled away from her normal routines by the unexpected death of her beloved father, and her mother's deployment as an Army nurse to the frontlines of Iraq. Her family has vacationed annually in a beach house they own in Sardinia, and Arden must travel there alone to prepare it for sale and remove any personal possessions that remain. On the way to Italy, she meets three girls from Texas who are traveling freestyle around Europe for the summer and impulsively joins them when they deplane in Paris. From there, the trip does not always go smoothly. She spends more money than she can afford, goes to places she doesn't necessarily want to see, and associates with people she doesn't particularly like, all the while sick with worry over her mother's safety and still grieving for her father. Yet, as time passes and her self-reliance grows, she forms friendships and connections she didn't have before. The theme of this book is really how bereft those left behind are when soldiers go to war. The ultimate message is that the world is a large and often scary place, but connections both old and new, along with the will to act and a belief that most people are essentially kind, can help you find zones of safety wherever you go. Reviewer: Myrna Marler
Children's Literature - Naomi Butler
With her mother serving as an army nurse in Iraq and her father deceased in a traffic accident a few years ago, Vanderbilt University student Arden Vogel is on her way to attend some family business in Sardinia when she impulsively undertakes a tour of Europe with a group of college girls she has just met. Lonely for her father and petrified about her mother's safety, Arden dreads her trip to Sardinia, even though it is the only place that has truly felt like home to her. When she meets a carefree group of fun-loving girls, she decides to put off her trip and join them in sampling the sights and culinary delights of Europe. She tries to forget about the dangers her mother faces every day and pretends she is just like the rest of the girls. But the house in Sardinia beckons, and she goes there, only to be followed by the girls. This is a novel brimming with laughter, tears and hope. It is timely. Reviewer: Naomi Butler
School Library Journal

Gr 6 Up- While flying to Europe, Arden, 19, meets three other college students heading for a fun-filled sightseeing tour; fairly typical Americans-in-Paris escapades ensue. But Stein goes beyond the usual in this moving novel about teens on the loose in a foreign country. Arden is more complex than many protagonists in popular teen fiction, and the fun-loving Texans she travels with are sketched with depth as supporting characters. The backstory is that Arden is on her way to close and sell her family's cherished vacation home in Sardinia after her father's death and her mother's deployment to Iraq as an Army nurse. Her inner musings are significant and subtle as she tries to make sense of the war and the loss of her dad. Readers reminisce with her as she struggles to face closing the only consistent home her small Army family has known. Paris and Italy come alive through Arden's eyes, and her sensitivity to local customs is beyond the carefree attitude her companions exhibit. In many ways, this is a quiet, introspective novel, but there is romance and laughter as well. Stein deftly portrays anguish, uncertainty, and unexpected joys, and not a moment drags as Arden's bittersweet journey unfolds. Ideal for the thoughtful armchair traveler, this story is engaging enough for readers on the long flight to the enduring wonders of Europe and emerging adulthood.-Roxanne Myers Spencer, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green

Kirkus Reviews
Traveling to Sardinia to say farewell to her family's vacation home, Arden struggles with other goodbyes that she has had to make in recent months. She is still reeling from the sudden death of her father in a car accident and her mother's deployment to Iraq. In an attempt to avoid this next one, Arden decides to change her original itinerary and join a trio of college girls, traveling through Europe for the first time. Unfortunately the drama of traveling with relative strangers in search only of the next party and the sporadic contact with her mother combine to make her feel even more isolated than before. Deciding to face her fears, she travels alone to her family's home in Italy. As she packs away some of her painful memories, Arden realizes that it is okay to be vulnerable, opening her heart to those around her. Arden's first-person voice seems at times older than her age might suggest, but her maturity is realistic when placed within the context of her life. Hopeful and real. (Fiction. 12 & up)

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Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range:
12 Years

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Read an Excerpt

The phone rang at 6 a.m. Even though I expected it, my heart leapt at the shrill sound. I lunged for the receiver, picking it up before the ring ended, and looked over at my roommate. She'd burrowed deeper undercover. I could only see a skein of hair on the pillow. Good.

I glanced at the clock to begin the countdown. My mom and I had exactly fifteen minutes for the phone call.

Technically, everyone was allowed two fifteen-minute DSN, the military phone system, calls a week, but we rarely managed two. Usually it was one call, which you might think meant we could talk for thirty minutes, but the army didn't work that way.

"Hi, sweetie," my mom said. Sometimes the connection was clear; other times it crackled and buzzed, her voice fading in and out. We had a good connection this time. I closed my eyes at the sound of her voice, trying to breathe it in, trying to soak in it. "How are you?"

I spent three minutes telling her about a paper I'd turned in and an upcoming final that worried me. "How are you doing?" I asked. I couldn't skip that even though I knew she wouldn't tell me anything important.

"It's 120 degrees today," she said. "Don't believe what people say about 'dry heat.' It's like stepping into an oven. And summer's just starting. Just another beautiful day in Baghdad. Oh, and yesterday we had a sandstorm."

"Was it as bad as everyone said it would be?" A deployment to Iraq sucked on many levels. For my mom, the weather was high on the list.

"It was worse. The sky turned orange. It was like the thickest fog you've ever seen, like a fine misty rain, but it was sand." I winced. "The sand whipped so hard even the birds couldn't fly."

I glanced at the clock. Five minutes down. Ten to go. And I hadn't brought up the trip to Sardinia.

Two months ago an Italian real estate agent contacted my mom about selling our vacation house in Sardinia. It took a few weeks before my mom had told me. I think she worried about my feelings, but I didn't blame her for wanting to sell.

"When we bought the place, Dad and I joked we'd retire there," she had said. That was during a phone call five weeks ago, when she finally filled me in. "That's not going to happen now, is it?"

"Plus, the roof's going to go any day now," she'd said, going on. Her voice had dropped out, then came back. "The plumbing all needs to be replaced."

I'd grown up on the story of how my parents bought the little house on their honeymoon. They knew my mom's military career would keep them moving a lot. A permanent place, they reasoned, even a vacation home they'd visit only once a year, was like having a real home.
"It's okay, Mom. It makes sense."

"I can't believe those people are offering so much money for such a dump," she'd said, trying to laugh.

"It's not a dump." I couldn't help defending the house. But it was a lot of money, enough to give my mom a comfortable nest egg when she finally left the army.

"You've always loved it best. We can keep it if you want," she had said in a rush. Because of the delay, her reply and mine came on top of each other.

Silence again. I wasn't sure if she'd heard me. But there wasn't time to get into long discussions. There were too many other important things to worry about.

"No, it makes sense to sell it," I'd said, pragmatic and practical. I ignored the deep pang that said I was turning my back on the place of my best memories, my favorite vacations, the promise my dad made to me every year if I was good.

I managed to convince her that since I already had a ticket to visit her in Germany—I'd purchased it before we knew she'd be deployed—I'd use my ticket and make my way down to Sardinia to close up the house. She didn't interrupt me much. Partly because it was easier to let one person talk instead of having a conversation full of time delays and dead air, and partly because I was saying everything she needed to hear.

I didn't lie to my mom when I had told her I wanted to do it; it was just that I hadn't really thought it through.
Then last week, as school was winding down and my trip was coming up, it finally occurred to me it might be really awful to go to Sardinia alone.

I had less than ten minutes to try and explain.
"So about the house," I said now, keeping an eye on the roommate and on the clock.

"I worry about you going to Sardinia alone," she said, echoing my thoughts. "Are you sure you want to do this?"
With a sinking heart, I realized that I couldn't burden her with my doubts. She'd been in Iraq for five months; I couldn't tell her that I was scared to go alone. That the beach house in Sardinia was the closest thing I had to a childhood home and I didn't want to be the one to turn off the lights and lock the door.

"Really, Mom, it's no problem."

"You'll be so lonely there. And how will you manage without a car?"

Perhaps she had also agreed to my offer without fully thinking it through. But I couldn't back down now. I volunteered to close the house to take one worry off her shoulders. I wasn't about to put it back on.

"Yeah, it's such a hardship to go spend a couple of weeks at a beach house in Sardinia. Honestly, Mom, it'll be awesome to travel to Europe. Hang out at the beach, eat great food. All my friends are so jealous."

Five minutes left.


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