Blooming at the Texas Sunrise Motel

336p. Holt. Mar. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781627793247.
Gr 4–6—With well-established skill and insight, Holt introduces middle grade readers to another appealing adolescent, 13-year-old Stevie Grace. Stevie's uncomplicated, insulated life with her loving, earthy, retro parents is ripped apart when a drunk driver careens into her mother and father's flower and fruit stand, killing them both. Suddenly, Stevie is on a bus headed toward her maternal grandfather, Winston, and about to discover a family history she never knew existed. A motley cast of characters await her at her grandfather's establishment, the dilapidated Texas Sunrise Motel. As Stevie struggles to understand her grandfather's emotional indifference and high expectations, she uncovers her mother's past through local townspeople: aging, narcoleptic Mrs. Crump, once her mother's teacher; Arlo and son Roy, who maintain the motel; Violet, a fashionista who loves movie marathons; and Horace and Ida, permanent motel residents who each have disabilities. When a letter arrives from the family of Stevie's father, Stevie visits Louisiana and a houseful of chatty, affectionate relatives who share memories of her father and invite her to stay. But Stevie is drawn back to the motel, where a new garden and her welcoming grandfather await her. Stevie's journey is deftly narrated with candor, angst, and compassion. Character portraits are diverse and well drawn. Stevie's small town life, from Taos, NM, to Little Esther, TX, is rich in family secrets, quiet discoveries, and evolving relationships. Universal themes of grief, family, love, and loyalty are conveyed through the understated prose.
VERDICT Stevie's realizations and emotional growth are orderly, often predictable, but her fresh voice, keen observations, and youthful resilience resonate. A solid addition for most middle grade collections.

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