September 17, 2019

The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster

By Cary Fagan
Review by
The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster is a funny, touching story about the healing power of art and human connection.
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Filled with beautiful art and poignant prose, Cary Fagan’s latest middle grade novel is funny and touching in equal measure.

Hartley Staples hasn’t been interested in much of anything since his older brother, Jackson, ran away from home. With middle school graduation approaching and his final project—the topic of which must be something he’s passionate about—due, Hartley’s disinterest is becoming a bigger problem. Then one day, he spots a handmade postcard, signed only with the initials “g.o.” Soon he happens upon another postcard, and just like that he’s completely wrapped up in a mystery: Who is g.o.? How many postcards are out there? Why does g.o. make them, and what do they mean? As Hartley becomes more invested in g.o. and their story, he starts to reawaken to the world around him and begins to find a way forward in Jackson’s absence.

Fagan has crafted Hartley as both a kid dealing with the trials of adolescence and as an individual facing emotional trauma; he’s a character readers of all ages will relate to. All of Fagan’s characters feel fully realized, with unique voices that stir laughter, warmth and even heartache on every page. The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster addresses family hardship, bullying and other serious topics, all while managing to maintain a sense of humor and hope even in the midst of pain. It will fill you up and make you believe in the healing power of art and human connection.

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