cover image Catching Fireflies

Catching Fireflies

Sherryl Woods. Mira, $7.99 mass market (384p) ISBN 978-0-7783-1359-5

A teacher and a pediatrician have an obvious professional overlap, and making children a central concern was no doubt Woods’s intent in creating such a pairing. Unfortunately, that focus turns the ninth Sweet Magnolias novel (after Midnight Promises) into an issue book rather than a romance. English teacher Laura Reed and doctor J.C. Fullerton slowly figure out that a student’s unhappiness is due to bullying. Fully two-thirds of the book is given over to the circumstances of the abuse, the victim’s experiences, and the ways the teens involved interact (or refuse to) with adults. Woods conscientiously ticks the boxes that are so familiar from relentless media coverage: online attacks, symptomatic behaviors, refusal to confront. This leaves little time for the protagonists, both experience-hardened avoiders of love, to overcome their reticence and develop a relationship. Woods’s well-intentioned attempt to jump on the antibullying bandwagon leaves romance in the dust. Agent: Denise Marcil, Denise Marcil Literary Agency. (Aug.)