Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Review: Signed, Skye Harper by Carol Lynch Williams

Publisher: Simon and Schuster US
Format: Hardcover / eBook
Released: May 13th, 2014
Rating: 8.5/10

Amazon summary:

Life is just fine for fourteen-year-old Winston. She loves her dog, Thelma, and although she never knew her dad, and her mom left ten years ago in search of Hollywood fame, Winston has family with Nanny, who is in her forties, and that doesn’t even make her old. But a “just fine” life gets a lot more exciting when a letter arrives from Skye Harper, aka Judith Fletcher, aka Winston’s mother. She needs help, and Nanny says the best way to give it is to take a cross-country road trip—in a “borrowed” motor home—to go find Mama once and for all. Winston’s not so sure about this plan, but with a cute stowaway named Steve along for company and an adventure on the horizon, this is sure to be a summer to remember.


I've never read a Carol Lynch Williams book I haven't liked. She's a brilliant storyteller and an even better writer, and a new book from her is always a highlight of my year. Signed, Skye Harper is another unflinching glimpse into a life very different to mine, but still one I can appreciate and understand. It's a great book.

The year is 1972. Winston is fifteen-years-old, living with her nanny and missing her mum, who left years ago. Her only other companion is her dog, Thelma, that is until she gets talking to Steve, a local boy and her one and only crush. A road trip to get her mum from Las Vegas changes everything for Winston, though life doesn't turn out quite how she expects it to.

Winston is someone I loved right from the beginning of this book. She's growing up in a difficult time, navigating her teenage years without a mother and trying to make sense of everything. She doesn't feel sorry for herself, though; she takes life as it comes and treasures those closest to her, never taking her nanny for granted or asking for more than she needs. She really grows up throughout Signed, Skye Harper, learning lessons and uncovering feelings along the way.

Although Signed, Skye Harper is an excellent book, not a lot happens. It's not an action-packed drive across the USA filled with drama and dangerous situations, but it is an intricate look at a broken, struggling family. These people are so real that it's hard not to think of them as flesh and blood, walking around Florida like that's where they belong. That's the beauty of a Carol Lynch Williams book - the realism takes over and nothing else matters; suddenly you're in 1972, in a motor home headed for the city of lights. It's a talent few authors truly achieve, but it's one that this author has no problem with.

With Signed, Skye Harper being set in 1972, there's no technology; mobile phones and the internet aren't even a glimmer in Winston's eye. I love when a story is set before the digital age because it frees the characters up to just talk and listen, without the added distractions of text messages and Twitter. A lot can be said for a face to face conversation, and that's one of this book's many strengths. It also alluded to several big events of 1972, including the Munich Olympic massacre, which effortlessly grounds it in another time and place.

Signed, Skye Harper is a wonderful book, full of promises and hope. It's the story of a disjointed family looking to reunite, of a girl making her own decisions and choosing the people she wants in her life. It's about growing up, growing old and learning to be happy with who you are, whether that's right or wrong. Read this if you like Carol Lynch Williams, and read it even if you don't. She's not an author to be missed.

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