by Richard Levine
Publisher: Firedrake Books LLC
Author Richard Levine introduces us to tween angst, camaraderie, and loss in his tale of friendship between tall, gawky DC Blau and shy Rob Cameron, who meet and become pals at a birthday party one summer in a Long Island town.
Levine’s book follows their blossoming friendship during a yearlong period and introduces us to their families, neighborhood, and school. The narrative ping-pongs between the two protagonists in their first-person voices, so readers understand both views of the same situation. This technique allows readers to truly get into the minds of this tween boy and girl. The back-and-forth arc flows through most chapters and is generally effective. I was confused initially when the author added first-person views from other characters, but I understood as the book progressed (no spoiler given!).
The author’s narrative is strongest during internal monologues. Rob’s recounting of a family vacation to North Carolina’s Outer Banks is a moving, sweet tribute to his father. Likewise, his projection of a what-if future speaks volumes to adults and young readers about optimism and perseverance. One of my favorite vignettes involves Rob’s unique way of helping a cash-strapped family remember their trip to Disney World as he also uncovers the depth of his father’s commitment to their town.
Levine brings a rich sense of place to his Long Island Sound setting, inserting kid-friendly escapades on the water and snippets of life in this close-knit community. He also supplies enough action to keep tweens interested: baseball games, fishing trips, first dates and kisses, and family tragedies.
The book would be stronger if it eliminated many clichés, nicknames, and acronymns. These devices were often confusing and difficult to understand, especially beyond a certain age and outside a USA culture. I don’t believe middle-graders would understand or appreciate most of them: Wouldn’t want to meet a mamba, ’cause if an African mamba gets you, it’s as the man from Odd says, “Say good night, Gracie.”
Two Kids provides upper-elementary and middle-school readers with relatable characters and a plot into which they can sink their teeth. Be aware: since Two Kids deals with death, sensitive young readers who recently experienced a loss may be disturbed by elements of the book.
I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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