Thursday, July 7, 2016

Arc Review: Counting Thyme by Melanie Conklin

Counting Thyme by Melanie Conklin. 300 p. G.P. Putnam's Sons, April, 2016. 9780399173301. (Review from arc received courtesy of publisher.)

If Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie (by Jordan Sonnenblick) were to have a younger sibling, it would be Counting Thyme. Debut author, Melanie Conklin has delivered a winner. Through Thyme, her sensitive and articulate eleven-year-old narrator, Conklin meticulously chronicles life in a family after the unthinkable - a cancer diagnosis. 

Thyme Owens has had to move away from her beloved grandmother and bff in San Diego clear across the country to New York City because her brother, Val was accepted into a cancer treatment trial at Memorial Sloan Kettering. In a rather memorable first line she says, "When someone tells you your little brother might die, you're quick to agree to anything." While she is totally supportive of her brother and can sometimes soothe him when no one else can, she can't help feeling pangs of resentment. Her mother, in an effort to acknowledge all that Thyme has given up, regularly gives her slips of paper when Thyme pitches in to help, a sort of time iou, which Thyme saves in a jar. Unbeknownst to everyone but her bff, Shani, Thyme intends to amass enough time to return to San Diego to visit Shani.

New York City, with its scary subway system, dirty streets and bone-chilling cold does not appeal to Thyme. Neither does her nasty downstairs neighbor, Mr. Lipinsky. She doesn't want to like Mrs. Ravelli, the housekeeper her mother hired to help out. Nor does she want to make friends at her new school or get too involved in activities because she will be gone before the end of the school year. She needs to be back in San Diego in time to celebrate Shani and her birthdays in March. 

Sure, some familiar ground is trodden here, but middle grade readers cannot get enough and the writing is lovely. The dialogue and friendship dramas are spot on. If you have readers who beg for sad, especially sad with a side of funny, this is one to give them. Counting Thyme has HEART. Don't miss this spectacular debut.

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