This Young Adult novel does a pretty good job of representing a number of common issues facing many modern families. Phoebe, the main character is caught in the ebb and flow of her mother’s relationship and subsequent marriage to her new stepfather. Phoebe is not used to having a father figure in her life, never mind one who is a heart surgeon and perfectionist. Her mother’s efforts to shut out the past is a major cause of frustration and resentment for Phoebe.
Moving from Barrie to Toronto means that Phoebe has to leave her high school and friends behind. If that weren’t hard enough, she is seldom offered an opportunity to visit cherished family members such as her aunt, grandmother, and cousins, who still reside in Barrie.
Narrated in the first person by a girl, this novel may appeal more to the 10- to 14-year-old female reader. However, Phoebe’s friend Colin brings a male perspective to the mysterious break-in of an elderly neighbour’s house.
I enjoyed the way the author portrays the young people in this novel. They are not shallow and uncaring, nor are they perfect. They have real-life problems, yet at the same time they are resourceful, strong-minded and caring.
Old Photographs would be an appropriate choice for a book report or individual book talk assignment for older Junior and Intermediate students. I would not hesitate to recommend it for the school library’s Young Adult section.
Debra Menary is a retired teacher formerly with the Simcoe County Teacher Local.