Surprisingly, this was one of my favorite reads of 2016. It would be easy for some readers to be turned off by what may appear to be a spoiled little rich girl story, but Moranville does a masterful job of making both Kobi and Brook relatable and sympathetic. Their grief over the loss of their parents is still achingly raw, and their fear over losing the only other family they know, Grandmama, feels entirely natural. While their privilege is undeniable, these are two girls who have lost much, and who continue to be shuttled around by the adults in their lives without much say. Any child can relate to the feeling of powerlessness of adults making all the decisions, and while Grandmama and Uncle Wim are clearly trying to do their best, readers will sympathize with the instability and sense of loss that Kobi and Brook feel so acutely.
Moranville adds a touch of magic to the story, too - their father was a magician, and their mother, a writer, left 27 words for Kobi that she truly believes can affect the course of everyday life. She even relies on one of them to see what she believes to be her parents, shipwrecked on a desert island. As Kobi's facade begins to crack under the stress of her new life, a nicely executed twist (that some readers may anticipate), illuminates the depths of Kobi's grief, and adds further complexity to her relationships with her family and friends. All the characters are nicely realized, adults and children alike, and Moranville manages to weave in numerous complicated issues, from OCD to dementia to changing relationships between parents and children, without the book feeling overstuffed or glossing over complexity.
Understated, emotionally authentic, and gentle, with memorable characters and a great depth of feeling, this is a quietly lovely book, and one that I hope more young readers pick up. Not overly dark, and respectful of young readers, it should find a broad audience.