May 16, 2012

Review: Billie Standish Was Here

By: Nancy Crocker
Published: June 2007 by Simon and Schuster
Format: Hardcover, 281 pages
First Reviewed: August 2010
Buy: Barnes & Noble//Books-A-Million//Amazon//Book Depository
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Can one unlikely friendship save a life?

Billie Standish has pretty much no one. Her parents are too caught up in their own lives, and the only two girls in town her age want nothing to do with her. When it looks like a nearby levee might break, and Billie's elderly neighbor, Miss Lydia, is the only other person besides her family to stick around, a friendship is born out of circumstance. What happens during that time, in that empty town, is a tragedy that Billie can't bear alone. Can the love of one woman nearing the end of her life save the life of a young woman just at the beginning of living hers?

Rating: 2/5

I really, really wanted to love this book. It was one of those times were you saw the book, liked the description, and just thought, This has to be good. And after the first chapter, I wasn't sure. After the disappointed me.

I'm biased with the setting because it takes place in Missouri and the characters even head to Kansas City (where I'm from; although I'm on the Kansas side) at one point. So I did like the setting, and even the time period. 1960s. It did well to this storyline and really set the mood. I thought it could have been described better and more so that we could really get a feel, though.

As for the characters: Eh, so-so. I liked them, but I didn't love them or really, actually care about them like I should have. Billie's relationships with others seemed a bit washed over, and she was eleven for most of the book. She seemed much older, and the last, er, 40-50 pages or so, we're taken through five years of her life. And therefore I never got to know her. Mrs. Jenkins was the most developed, in my opinion, but I still didn't come to care about her as much as I would have liked. At times, though, I thought she was hilarious. As for the minor characters, they just seem placed in there. Some had purposes, but the purposes weren't even drawn out in the story like I felt they should have been. All-in-all, I thought the characters need a lot of work.

Not too much of a fan of the writing, to be honest. The narrative wasn't consistent with the "voice" and "tone" of this story. There were errors, both punctuational (same sentence, literally, but comma in one, no comma in the other) and simple ones like calling Mrs. Jenkins a "he." I never connected with the voice, and I often found myself skimming through the plain prose because she wasn't able to grab me. And she also jumped a lot. One second she's one place, then the next paragraph she's in another without any line breaks or warnings. It just wasn't as strong as I would have liked.

I think it could have had a ton of potential if it was paced differently. It spans over five years, but 85% of the book is Billie at eleven. While I got the relationship that Billie and Mrs. Jenkins had, it was just rushed over, in my opinion. The most important plot points, which I thought they were anyway, just seemed to be written to show us what happened and then moved on. Literally, the most important part to the story, that's the whole reason they have to "help each other," was over within about six pages. It wasn't realistic at all. And then a part that could have been done with in a chapter, maybe two, went on forever. It just had extreme pacing and focus issues.

Overall, it was all right. There were good parts, but I found myself wanting it to hurry up and be done with it. I was disappointed, and I really wanted to like this. It just wasn't strong enough. Perhaps, though, this deserves a re-read in the future.

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