Published by Candlewick Press on August 6th, 2013
Genres: fantasy, middle grade
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From the New York Times bestselling author of the Emily Windsnap series comes a captivating adventure about family, friendship, and the bonds that bridge time. The sleepy seaside village of Porthaven hides a mystery: Mia’s grandad has vanished, and nobody knows why. When Mia and her mom rush to Porthaven to help her grandmother, Mia imagines long dreary days with no one to talk to except for the old-time fisherman at her grandparents’ pub. But that’s before Mia finds a diary on an empty, docked fishing boat and starts exchanging notes with a local girl named Dee, a girl who seems much like her. Mia is excited about having a new friend, but why do their plans to meet each other never materialize? And why does Dee claim to be stuck at home due to violent storms when Mia sees only sunny skies? Will Mia be able to solve the mystery of where — and when — her grandfather and friend might be before time and tide forever wash away their futures?
Oh man. It really sucks so badly when you are enjoying a book as much as I was enjoying this one, and then you get to the end and it all falls apart because you don’t like the ending or the way it was written. For that reason, I am super conflicted about the rating for this. I ended up giving North of Nowhere three stars, but it was pretty hard not to give it a two because it let me down so much. That said, I did enjoy it up until the last thirty-five or so pages, so I am going to discuss the good things first.
I thought the setting was well-imagined. At first I was concerned there was going to be too much telling based on the opening pages, but it came together quickly and I really enjoyed the location I was reading about. Could there have been more information, more imagery? Yes, of course, but I thought it was enough for me and definitely enough for someone in the age range for which this book was intended.
The same goes for the characters. I liked them all. I found them to be a bit cardboard, but there was enough there for me to smile and root for them and hope their stories turned out well. Especially Mia and Peter. I liked them quite a bit, and I also liked the use of animals in this book.
I thought the story was paced well, and it really engaged me and kept my attention. There were parts of it that confused me though, and that’s fine as I was looking forward to the answers when they came. But this is where it gets ugly. As the story finally started to come together and the answers were being revealed one by one, I was STILL confused. The explanations didn’t work for me and I was left having to read passages over and over, and to be quite honest, I can’t be bothered doing that. I’m not going to analyze the last forty pages because they weren’t written clearly. And then I am thinking, this is a book written for middle grade readers. If I, as an adult, am flustered and confused, how is a middle grade reader going to interpret this? Not well, I would predict. Which is a shame as the characters were whimsical and fun, and the setting was really envisioned to my liking. But if the writing lacks clarity, then it just does and that’s all there is to it.
Very disappointing ending, but I did still enjoy most of the book overall, hence the three star rating. I wish I could tell you more about the plot, but I can’t without revealing spoilers. It is one of those books that can’t be explained beyond the blurb and it has to be left up to the reader to get the answers. Unfortunately those answers did not work for me, but maybe it’s just my brain and the way it functions. Who knows? But I thought the descriptions were too simple, not explained enough, and there was not enough detail there for my liking.