June 2004

Friends in a changing world

By Alison McGhee
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"Is that the way it is with everything? Is everything in this world changing all the time, in little ways, ways I can't even see?" So wonders Eddie, the female narrator of this spare, thoughtful first novel by Alison McGhee.

Eddie and Sally Hobart are best friends, spending time during the summer between sixth and seventh grade at each other's houses in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains. Eddie is a girl of lists. She makes shopping lists, lists of favorite foods, movies and nicknames. But, despite her penchant for lists, Eddie can't control everything. The six rubber bands on her arms, "to be snapped when necessary," serve to add order to her life. The red rubber band reminds her not to store food in her cheeks, the blue one keeps her from thinking of Sally's grandmother as "Willie," the yellow one reminds her to stop tipping in her chair.

This gentle tale is as familiar as it is unforgettable. Slowly, Eddie realizes that something is different about the relationship between Sally and her grandmother. Willie is the one who makes sure the girls do not eat too much sugar. Willie is the one who picks cattails. Willie is the one who stepped in when Sally was born to her 15-year-old mother, Jill. Though she still lives and works in their small town, and she is part of her daughter's life, Jill is not Sally's mother. The unspoken question is there for all to see who will take care of Sally when her grandmother dies? Can Eddie or anyone make it easier? Things do change, in perceptible and imperceptible ways, for these two memorable characters. Eddie's fresh narrative voice makes us think of what it means to be a friend in a changing world.

Snap will join Kevin Henkes' Sun and Spoon and Katherine Paterson's Bridge to Terabithia as great books that address this universal question.

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By Alison McGhee
ISBN 9780763620028

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