Smith pulls from the center of that painful aloneness of the whirlpool that comprises the teenage years to create the character of Penny and to touch the universal places to which many have been. Told in verse, Penny's story transcends seven sections-marine life, low tide, the lay of the land, bodies of water, the river of sixteen, the wrong road out of town, and the flanks of home-to create a wonderful journey of "wherever you go, that's where you are." "I guess if you look at it / I'm right where I started," Penny says in the last scene. Smith captures the three-dimensional aspects of the characters through metaphors of the changing seasons, references to maps, and exposing people in different light-"but I guess everyone's / got another version of themselves / living inside them, / you just don't get to see it / all the time." Penny's stepbrother, Spencer, who "is more disgusting than the parts of a fish / you throw in the trash," ends up being part of her journey to herself in closing. She plans to spend his life telling him "the first of many stupid warnings" that a younger stepbrother should know. Penny traverses through difficult truths: a mother who left ten years ago, an older sister who does not keep her curfew, a father who is remarrying, and her friend Denise who is suffering from mental illness. Through raw courage and patience, Penny learns how to float above it all in this essential purchase.
All Penny can think about is getting away from her dull, small-town life, just like her mother did when Penny was six. Her story begins at the end of ninth grade. She is consumed by the great life she sees her sister living. Tara is pretty, popular with boys, and able to defy their father. Problems are compounded when Dad marries and adds a stepbrother, Spencer, to the equation. Penny shares her first kiss, infatuation with her history teacher, experimentation with drinking and sex, and finally running away with her sister's ex-boyfriend, Bobby. Kirsten Smith shares, in the form of verse, how fragile life can be while growing up. Penny gets her wish and runs away with Bobby, only to realize that dreams are so different from the reality of those dreams. Penny learns how to accept things for what they are, not wishing to be someone else or go some place else. It is okay to just be.
Gr 9 Up-This novel in verse follows Penny as she navigates the unpredictable and often harrowing waters of young adulthood, and her episodic narration reverberates with authenticity. She is a sensitive girl deeply affected by her mother's abandonment when she was six. Though many of the hurdles that Penny encounters are representative of typical small-town teens, she has an insight into other people and even into her own feelings that make this a penetrating portrait of growing up female. The selections touch on the mercurial nature of friendships, envy of an attractive older sister with a boyfriend, self-consciousness about her own body and beauty, longing to be in the "in" crowd while at the same time deriding the superficial behavior of its members, and adjusting to a stepmother and younger stepbrother. The everyday pain of adolescence rings true throughout this readable and honest story. There is some matter-of-fact mention of sexual situations and underage drinking. However, it is the clarity, the keen understanding, and the apt metaphors that make Penny's voice so memorable.-Renee Steinberg, formerly at Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
The mystery of a missing mother never overwhelms this coming-of-age story told in poetry, as Penny Morrow decides to test the waters and find out who she is-without rocking the boat too much. When readers first meet Penny, she's anticipating high school, her first kiss and contemplating the wild and loose behavior of her older sister. Soon Penny accumulates experiences both funny and poignant, including a first kiss, a failed drama performance and events surrounding her father's remarriage. But it's the unexpected loss of the first-kiss-giver that turns Penny's world upside down and propels her on a final attempt at living dangerously, silencing the ghost of her missing mother and putting all the pieces together. Penny's transformation from shy little sister to mature teenager is gratifying, and readers will be enormously satisfied that Penny has grown from ditz to balanced young woman, ready to handle the challenges of adulthood. (Fiction. YA)