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The Key to Everything - Booklist Review

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Eleven-year-old Tash is furious that Kevin, her uncle and guardian, has arranged for her to spend a month at summer camp, and has raged at her feisty, imaginative, beloved neighbor, Cap’n Jackie, calling her a crazy old lady for backing up Kevin’s decision. Four weeks later, Tash returns home in a happier frame of mind, only to find that Cap’n Jackie has a broken hip. In the rehab facility, Tash finds her old friend silent and unresponsive, despite attempts to reach her through memories of magical times they have shared. A letter from Jackie, delivered after her death, helps Tash let go of regrets, mourn her loss, and keep going. Early in the book, letters to and from camp offer lively introductions to the characters. Schmatz vividly portrays Tash and Jackie, each as stubborn, quick-tempered, and fearful at heart as the other. Steadfast and dependable, Kevin serves as a foil for both. The novel will take some readers outside their comfort zones, into the sometimes scary arena of health care facilities and the never-easy subject of death. But the strong presentation of Tash’s viewpoint is reassuring, and so is the straightforward depiction of her discomfort, anger, jealousy, remorse, reconciliation, and sadness. A simply written, emotionally resonant narrative.
— Carolyn Phelan
This review was published on Booklist Online.

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