You Must Kiss a Whale

You Must Kiss a Whale

by David Skinner

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Readers may think they're entering the Twilight Zone upon encountering Skinner's dreamscape of a desert and an abandoned house. The family of ``squatters'' within consists of 13-year-old Evelyn, her baby brother Zack and their mother, who is obsessed with tracking a violent storm that passes through the area once a month. While Evelyn's mother is busy making calculations and working on her invention, the ``Ultimate Raincoat,'' Evelyn explores a trunk of family memorabilia. Her most interesting find is an unfinished story composed by her recently disappeared father. As she attempts to reconstruct the manuscript, Evelyn begins to confront her own feelings of abandonment, isolation and neglect. Though the novel's surreal quality may disquiet some readers, others will find satisfaction in unfolding its many layers of meaning, sorting out incongruities and experiencing the gradual unveiling of characters' conflicts and emotions. While the book's situation and setting come across as absurd, its feelings of pain and longing remain hauntingly real. As compelling and disturbing as a story by Borges, this innovative work warrants more than one reading. Ages 11-up. (June)
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 7-9-- After the death (or disappearance) of her husband, Evelyn's mother flees with Evelyn and baby Zack to the desert, where the family is squatting in a house that ``has rooms like an onion has rings . . . and every month the outer rooms, the ones on the fringe, are chewed up and spat out by the storm.'' While her mother obsessively spends all her energies making an Ultimate Raincoat to fight the inevitable storm, Evelyn, isolated and responsible for her brother, finds a chest that contains some of her mother's cherished possessions, on top of which is a story by her father. In it, a boy receives an anonymous letter telling him he must kiss a whale. As Evelyn strives to understand the story and how it relates to her, gradually, like the onion, layers of the novel unfold to reveal Evelyn's anger and grief over the loss of one parent and the apparent neglect of the other. (Readers are not totally sure that the father is dead because he's left his family on numerous earlier occasions.) As the rotting house suggests, setting and characterization are mostly surreal, but the puzzle of what it is all leading to is compelling. Because the meaning, even at the conclusion, is ambiguous, although it is obvious that Evelyn and her mother are making attempts to communicate and to recognize one another's pain, this book, which explores the workings of an adolescent's mind, is for students willing to mull over its meaning and to reach their own conclusions. A thought-provoking experience for mature readers, and a bridge to adult books. --Susan F. Marcus, Pollard Middle School, Needham, MA

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Product Details

Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books
Publication date:
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

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