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Sunday, July 8, 2012

Under the Moon, written by Deborah Kerbel. Dancing Cat, Cormorant. 2012. $14.95 ages 12 and up

"Aunt Su never lived the lifestyle of the rich and famous. I don't ever remember her talking about money or wanting to buy a fancy car or go shopping on the French Riviera. She never wore jewellery or fancy clothes. As far as I know, she didn't like polo or caviar or golf. Her writing, the lake, me. Those were the things she go the most joy from, and none of them cost a penny."

When Lily's Aunt Su dies, her world changes. Never one for getting much sleep, now Lily isn't sleeping at all. She always had Aunt Su to count on for a chat when sleep wouldn't come. Often, that contact was enough to allow her to relax and get a few hours. Aunt Su looked on it as having more time for life if you weren't sleeping it away. As happens, her not sleeping causes anxiety and concern over an Internet report that people die from lack of sleep. Lily is becoming more and more concerned about her own imminent death.

Seeking company in the middle of another sleepless night, Lily remembers that there is one place in town where someone will be awake:

"Why didn't I think of it before? Really, it's so obvious. The only place in town where somebody else is guaranteed to be awake like me.

The big, bright orange sign perched on top of our town's shiny new drive-thru burns up the night sky like a flaming piece of cheese (thankfully, with no stuffed dead animals alongside).

McCool Fries.

I aim my sneakers toward it and start jogging."

At McCool's she meets Ben, who's manning the shop for the graveyard shift. Turns out he's new at her school with a bunch of his own problems. He works all night and sleeps during class. He seems to have money and 'things', so why that job? Lily makes the assumption that he won't have much energy left to help her deal with the stuff that is bothering her.

I tore through this book, admiring Lily's first person narrative and learning to love her character.
Life without Aunt Su is terrible. She misses her advice and her support as she deals with her mother's control issues and her dad's absence from the house where she and her mom live. She knows that she has to live on without Aunt Su, hoping that earlier lessons will help her cope. She does remarkably well.

Because she has always valued invisibility, Lily doesn't have close friends. As her relationship with Ben grows and changes, she learns to reach out to others and accept overtures of friendship from them. Ben needs her help, but doesn't want to admit it. Together they support each other as they try to adjust to the hands they've both been dealt:

"I guess perfection can never last long, can it? After lending us twenty minutes of awesome, the lake decided to shoo us away. The water was so cold it had sucked practically every molecule of warmth from our bodies. And as you can imagine, blue lips aren't much good for kissing. Or talking, for that matter."

 Lily swears in French, compares the people in her life to fonts, and has the most remarkable voice. She's fiercely independent, outspoken, very funny and thoughtful. I loved reading her reactions to her mother (General MacArthur), schoolmates, her growing relationship with Ben.  She is also vulnerable and uncertain at times. She makes some difficult discoveries along the way; first, about her aunt's death, then about Ben's family.    
As sole heir to her aunt's estate and keeper of the 'pomegranate jar of death' that holds her aunt's ashes, Lily has much to ponder. And ponder it she does, always with a fresh and lively voice that will capture attention and garner new fans for Ms. Kerbel. Well deserved they are!  

This book has found its place on my 'keepers' shelf! 

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