Nicole Melanson ~
I read Holly Goldberg Sloan’s Counting by 7s last year and absolutely loved it, so I was really excited for Short, not least because it’s about a young girl’s role in a summer theatre production. I spent my childhood summers at opera workshops and chorus camp so it was wonderful to read something with a similar setting. Sloan really captured that sense of getting caught up in something outside your everyday life. I especially liked how the narrator’s brother took part in the same production but didn’t seem as affected by the experience. It was a very realistic portrayal of how you can get involved in something that totally transforms you and changes your entire outlook, but then someone else has exactly the same experience and just shrugs the whole thing off.
Sloan is both funny and insightful. I could see where my strings were being pulled but I was happy to go along with it and just let the emotions come. And yes, there were tears. There’s a real tenderness in how these characters are written but nothing mawkish about it. The lead, Julia, is perfectly captured on the cusp of maturity; she’s still very much a child, but enjoys hanging around grown-ups, trying their adulthood on for size. And the adults, in turn, welcome her and treat her like one of their own, whilst still nurturing and protecting her.
The language in this book is impeccably controlled. I imagine Sloan put a lot of effort into her line edits because every sentence feels necessary and balanced. The word choices are always spot-on and the images compelling. I’d recommend this to other writers as a craft study, and to readers of any age looking for a little light in a year of bad news. In the meantime, my eight-year-old has already started my copy!