Sunday, April 1, 2018

A Robin Hood Retelling about Friendship and Family: Every Shiny Thing by Cordelia Jensen and Laurie Morrison

Every Shiny Thing by Cordelia Jensen and Laurie Morrison | Goodreads

Publisher: Abrams/Amulet Books
Release: April 17, 2018
Source: Author
ISBN: 9781683352495
In this beautifully constructed middle-grade novel, told half in prose and half in verse, Lauren prides herself on being a good sister, and Sierra is used to taking care of her mom. When Lauren’s parents send her brother to a therapeutic boarding school for teens on the autism spectrum and Sierra moves to a foster home in Lauren’s wealthy neighborhood, both girls are lost until they find a deep bond with each other. But when Lauren recruits Sierra to help with a Robin Hood scheme to raise money for autistic kids who don’t have her family’s resources, Sierra has a lot to lose if the plan goes wrong. Lauren must learn that having good intentions isn’t all that matters when you battle injustice, and Sierra needs to realize that sometimes, the person you need to take care of is yourself.
What a beautifully-written, deeply-developed, heartfelt story. Every Shiny Thing is a sparkling, emotional novel that’s sometimes bright and bubbly, sometimes hard-hitting and heartrending—and it’s a joy to read. 

When I started reading Every Shiny Thing, I first fell in love with the impeccably-written dual-POV narrative, which spotlights two equally fascinating voices. First, we have Lauren, a girl from an affluent Philadelphia neighborhood who misses her brother after he leaves for a boarding school for autistic kids. And second, we have Sierra, a girl from a low-income part of town who moves to a foster home next door to Lauren’s house after her mother is arrested. Sierra’s side of the story is told in Cordelia Jensen’s signature free verse, which (as I’ve discussed at length before) stunningly plays with scenery, space, and sound. With lines like “if you ride a roller coaster long enough it starts to feel like a carousel,” Sierra’s sections use poetry in a way that’s artistic yet accessible—a perfect combination, especially for a middle grade novel. And Jensen’s verse is complemented perfectly by Laurie Morrison’s lovely prose, which transforms Lauren into an empathetic character and adds a rich, engaging texture to the story.

This half-verse, half-prose storytelling balance helps to keep the story’s two perspectives distinct, but it’s not the only aspect of the writing that does. Sierra and Lauren each have a marked personality with unforgettable traits—and their unique perspectives will have readers laughing, crying, cringing, and cheering, all within the span of a few pages. Whether you’re wishing you could support Sierra as she learns to look out for herself or reeling with secondhand dread as you watch Lauren’s well-intentioned Robin Hood scheme turn into an all-out obsession with stealing, you’ll be wholly invested in the lives of each vivid narrator.

I also appreciated the fact that Every Shiny Thing sends some hard-hitting, important messages about family and friendships, the extent to which we can do good in the world, and more—but is never heavy-handed in doing so. This novel treats pre-teens like the smart and perceptive (yet not infallible) people that they are, allowing its characters to learn and grow organically. As a result, the story is insightful yet not instructive, a perfect balance for a middle grade story that tackles tough subjects.

All in all, Every Shiny Thing reminded me why I love both middle grade fiction and dual-POV novels. I adored both narrators, both writing styles, and the work of both writers (and I can’t wait read more from both of them—hopefully in the form of another co-authored novel). I highly recommend this book to fans of middle grade contemporary stories that deal with difficult issues in a way that’s bright, colorful, and ultimately hopeful.  

1 comment:

  1. This sounds wonderful! I've been looking for more MG books to read with my son, I haven't read a Robin Hood retelling and it's one of my favorite stories, and I love the idea of it having both verse and prose. Thanks so much for sharing this! I'm going to add in on Goodreads.

    I found your blog via Bloggers Commenting Back! I'm following you on Bloglovin' now. :)

    Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear?

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