How well do we know the people around us? What lies beneath the surface? How much is real and how much is the mask that we present the world? How much “mask” is okay–even necessary?
Emily Baxter lives in a small town where everyone knows one another and life is simple. She’s a little bit unique for her love of dragons and fairy tales, a little bit different because of the way unusual things and people fascinate her, but for the most part she’s a very normal seventeen year old. When a new girl with graceful ways and old-fashioned charm moves to town, Emily is enchanted. She sets out to make friends with October Blake and does so quite efficiently. Emily, October, and Emily’s cousin Jax become almost inseparable over the summer. It all seems perfect until a few slight changes bring the whole wonderful thing crashing down.
What I Liked
First of all, Pennington’s writing keeps improving. This was by far her most professional sounding book to-date. As reader and writer who reads widely and has a lot of friends in the indie publishing realm, I love seeing writers improve over the years. You’d never know Octoberwas self-published unless you already knew or specifically looked.
I loved the portrayal of friendship in this book. The relationships were beautiful. I’ve always tended to form connections with people quickly and remember past friends long after they’ve forgotten me, so I could totally relate to Emily’s interest in October’s friendship and desire to hang onto it. I also loved Jax. Books rarely portray normal, knightly, sensitive guys who are neither afraid of girls nor interested in a romantic relationship only.
Pennington chose to address some pretty big, scary issues in this book. (Definite trigger warning for anyone who has mental health struggles.) To be honest, the topics she tackled intimidate me both in real life and in fiction. However, I think it’s so important that Christians don’t hide or deny issues like this and Christian authors have a huge potential to facilitate awareness and conversations. I applaud Pennington for stepping into this space.
What I Didn’t Love
This is a pretty minor complaint, but about three-quarters of this book is a sweet, simple, beautiful coming-of-age story. I knew something was going on with October but wasn’t really expecting the magnitude and emotional punch of the last quarter of the book. Maybe this was by design. I mean, people rarely get enough foreshadowing in real life. Still, as a reader, the ending especially came out of left field.
Rating: PG or PG-13 for thematic elements regarding mental health
Length: 263 Pages