cover image A 52-Hertz Whale

A 52-Hertz Whale

Bill Sommer and Natalie Haney Tilghman. Lerner/Carolrhoda Lab, $18.99 (200p) ISBN 978-1-4677-7917-3

Told through the exchange of conversational emails, Sommer and Tighman’s debut features relatable characters in a slightly fantastical yet wholly realistic series of situations. James Turner is a socially awkward high school freshman in Philadelphia, caught between his obsession with whales and a disintegrating childhood friendship. When his sponsored juvenile whale, Salt, breaks away from his pod and engages in abnormal behavior, James blindly reaches out to Darren Olmstead, a former volunteer from his middle school Resource Room. Darren is a recent college graduate with a film degree, working in Los Angeles and struggling to recover from a failed relationship. What follows is a vibrant, in-depth exploration of the parallel paths the lives of these two young men take, highlighting the relative anonymity of computer communication in contrast to the facades presented to the world. The voices and stories of secondary characters lend depth and a more well-rounded perspective. Flashes of humor and empathy are interspersed with exposition from others’ viewpoints, creating a cohesive, emotionally intimate story that sensitively handles loss, grief, accomplishment, and the not-so-simple act of growing up. Ages 14–up. Agent: Sara Crowe, Harvey Klinger. (Sept.)