Heavy Medal Mock Newbery Finalist #5: The Line Tender
As our Mock Newbery discussions continue here on Heavy Medal, readers should also be aware that ALSC compiles the results of mock award elections from all over. Some results are already in and the list will grow in coming weeks. Today’s featured book was named an Honor book in the first two mock Newberys to report.
Introduced by Heavy Medal Committee Member Amanda Bishop
What an outstanding debut novel by Kate Allen. The Line Tender is by no means a light middle grade read. It’s lengthy in terms of page numbers and is written at a leisurely pace, allowing for Allen to construct her setting and characters. Readers will quickly fall into the story of this book because of Kate Allen’s masterful storytelling. You are given a door into Lucy’s mind and are taken on a journey with her, noticing the things she notices, smelling the smells of the sea, feeling her genuine grief and pain.
Lucy’s character is written with such tenderness and honesty. The emotions and feelings she has feel natural for the early-teen that she is and makes her come that much more alive. She is written with empathy and many readers will find a way to connect with her. Lucy is a young girl who is desperately seeking meaning in the chaos and tragedy of her young life.
What Kate Allen does best to construct this story is writing with exquisite detail of every aspect of this novel. She describes everything with a respect that transforms the mundane into a thing of beauty. She has a way of writing that makes emotions tangible in a very poetic way. For example
“But my grief for her was like a circle. I always came around to missing her again”
“There were three things on my mind, tangled up like necklaces in a jewelry box”
The reader can immediately understand what her mind must look like at that moment and perhaps connect and understand how Lucy must be feeling.
It is not only with emotions that Allen is able to bring Lucy to life, it is also in the describing of Lucy’s physical world.
“The smell was strong- not Gloucester Harbor strong, but fishy. It wasn’t just the herring for the traps or the catch itself. There was an earthy smell that came from the algae-green wood and the water that stood still inside the breakwall.”
“I took a seat at my desk and surveyed the landscape- a small village of nail polish bottles, colored pencils, a rubber finger-puppet beast, and a hill of assorted notepads.”
While much of the nature of this book is on loss and grief, Allen doesn’t weigh the reader down without picking them back up again. The moments of humor and fond reflections do much to bring a smile on the reader’s face and a warmth to their hearts. It is a testament to Allen’s writing and storytelling that readers will walk away from this book with it still on their minds.
About Steven Engelfried
Steven Engelfried was the Library Services Manager at the Wilsonville Public Library in Oregon until he retired in 2022 after 35 years as a full-time librarian. He served on the 2010 Newbery committee, chaired the 2013 Newbery Committee, and also served on the 2002 Caldecott committee. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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