Genre: MG Contemporary
Pages: 320 pages
Publication date: April 12, 2016
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers
My Rating: 5 / 5
My Rating: 5 / 5
You know, no one ever said reading books was easy. Some are, sure. But some grind you up into an emotion-filled pulp and leave you puddling on the floor at every turn of the page. You being wondering what in the actual expletive was running through the author's head when she wrote it. Was she trying to transform people into wads of blubbering messes? Was she sitting there at her laptop grinning evilly, fueled by pictures of her readers all collapsing into a nervous heap--just a pile of arms, legs, tears, and snot bubbles?
I don't know.
I can't weasel my way into Melanie Conklin's brain (even though I'd love to), but Counting Thyme did just that to me. From the very beginning of the story, we learn about Thyme's little brother, Val, and his struggle with cancer. And it was from that moment on that I fell in love with this book. Not because it dealt with a child fighting a life-threatening disease, but because of the reaction the entire family had to it. Every action, line, phrase, and word is smothered in sincerity. Melanie never once plays the pity card. We absolutely feel sorry for these people, especially Val, but there's never a moment when she dwells on that for even a microsecond too long. This family maintains a positive attitude in such a believable way that you find yourself nodding your head to what the parents say, to the words of encouragement from Thyme, even to the occasional fed-up reactions of her sister.
You keep the smile on your face.
You tell yourself it'll be okay.
You begin to believe everything's going to be all right.
But the entire time you do that, you still know. There's that whisper telling you that it could all go wrong at any moment. That the next day could bring the news no one dares speak of. So you wait. And you melt. And your body is so tense that it's hard to turn the page. Because somehow Melanie has put you so deeply into the story of Thyme and her brother, that you're not just feeling what they're feeling, you're living it, too.
And that's why this book gets five stars. Because of its ability to capture those experiences and extend them out to the reader in such a subtle way that, before long, we're completely unaware that we're not in our world any longer. We're with Thyme. With Val. With the family. And even though their lives are constantly operating under this umbrella of potential devastation, they operate together. They operate with hope and trust and love. And we feel that, too. Because Melanie knows no one can escape bad news when it shows up. What we can do, though, is surround ourselves with the people we love and make every single moment a memorable one.
Just like this book. Because once you read Counting Thyme, you won't soon forget it. You've found new friends on those pages. You've found people you can trust.
You've found hope, too.