Sixteen year old Krista is still grieving the untimely death of her mother when her father's new girlfriend moves into their home. He's already moved on and wants Krista to do the same, but she's not ready to resume a normal life yet. Distancing herself from those around her, Krista spends all of her time obsessively watching a mysterious house, the house at 758.
When a fellow classmate, Jake, takes a sudden interest in her, Krista feels excited for the first time in two years, but feelings of guilt consume her, and she ends up pushing Jake away. It isn't until her grandfather makes a surprise visit from Venezuela that Krista is finally able to confront her grief and begin to let things go.
I recently read and reviewed Going Places by Kathryn Berla (out March 2018) and then got the opportunity to pick up The House at 758. I love discovering new (to me) authors and titles because it's a bit like opening a present- you aren't sure what you are going to find inside, and as you open it you find something that's just right. That's kind of how I feel about Berla and these two books right now. Two months ago I didn't even know they existed, and now they've become books that I'm eager to order for the library and pass on to my students.
I don't want to give much away here, because the story includes some fabulous reveals, so this review will be short and sweet. This book, like Going Places, focuses on a kid who is hurting, who is trying to move forward after a tragedy and who is trying to figure out how to exist in a world that isn't familiar anymore. Here we find Krista still reeling from her mother's death. She's coping in ways that other people don't understand, in ways that are a little odd, and even in some that could be potentially dangerous. When her best friend goes away for the summer, Krista is a bit rudderless. It takes a few unexpected relationships to shake Krista and make her take a hard look at what she wants and if she wants to let herself be vulnerable again. Berla does a great job telling Krista's story. Anyone who has lost someone will find something familiar here, from the anger and grief, to the feelings of being alone even when you are in a room full of people. They'll recognize the guilt and the feelings of "what if?" that fill Krista's mind, even if they are lies that she is trying to get past.
What I love most about this book is that there is no big grand happy ever after. There is just life. In the end you get the sense that Krista's life isn't perfect, but that she'll be okay. For me that's a great message not only for me as a reader, but for me to send my students as their librarian. I'm always trying to find books that reflect real life (even those that fall into the realm of fantasy and sci fi), I want them to be able to see themselves somewhere in the pages, and I think Berla does a great job here. Krista is damaged and she's hurting, but she'll be okay in the end.
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