Review of Snow Lane, by Josie Angelini

Snow Lane

by Josie Angelini

Feiwel and Friends, January 2018. 197 pages.
Starred Review
This review written December 7, 2017 from an advance reader copy.
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#1 Historical Children’s Fiction

I’ve often complained that I’m not really represented in children’s books, because there simply aren’t too many books with large families. I’m third of thirteen children. And even when big families are portrayed, they often romanticize them as a big barrel of fun.

The narrator of this book is Annie Bianchi, the youngest of nine kids. I like her reaction when people ask her if it’s fun to always have someone to play with.

Someone to play with? When you’re the youngest of nine kids, you aren’t a player. You’re the ball.

(I am now very frustrated I can’t post that quote on Facebook for my siblings to laugh at now in December 2017 when I’m writing this review. All in good time.)

Annie is ten years old as this book begins. Her oldest sister is nineteen, so, whew! Those kids are consistently much closer together than my family. You figure out very early on that some of her older sisters are just plain mean to her. Not cutesy mean, but abusively mean. This makes the book less pleasant, but it’s also more realistic.

The book is set in 1985. I’m not sure why it’s not set in the present. Things were mentioned that happened in 1985, such as the launching of the space shuttle Challenger and the Cabbage Patch doll craze, but that’s probably a little more fun for those of us who lived through those years than for kids today.

Not that my family was as bad as the Bianchi family, but Josie Angelini gets a whole lot of things right about big families: The overall, pervasive neglect, sibling rivalry on a whole new level, what a big sister leaning over you from an upper bunk looks like, shoes with holes in them, hand-me-down clothes, not having people over so they won’t see your house, mess on a whole new level, older siblings playing a parental role, and nobody monitoring your school assignments. Yep, I strongly suspect the author has personal experience with big families. (Sure enough – I checked her blog and she was youngest of eight. Yes, she gets it.)

Reading this book was really sad for me. Some things happened that were much worse than anything I ever faced, but some of the feelings they pulled up – let’s just say I could relate, all too well.

So the writing is brilliant. She nails the description of a big family – overall, as well as including quirky and real individual characters. But despite the tough things that happen, you can’t help but liking Annie.

Annie’s somewhat scatterbrained and has trouble reading because she’s dyslexic. But she’s a quick thinker and in the Academically Creative and Talented class. In that class, they start off fifth grade with a question about Destiny. So Annie spends the year trying to figure out her destiny. While dealing with friends and her crazy big family and how the worlds of school and home can overlap – or not.

The story does build to a crisis. Some big decisions and revelations are made. The book ends on a note of hope, and you find that you’re rooting for Annie Bianchi, who’s a good listener, a good sister, and a good friend.

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