Book Thoughts by Rachelle
I adore middle grade fiction and Missing Okalee has a coveted spot on my overflowing shelf. The story of Phoebe and her sister Okalee is highly emotional, somewhat heavy, and yet full of poignant thoughts and experiences. I would categorize it as upper middle grade fiction/family drama.
After tragedy, Phoebe struggles with a range of emotions that would be difficult for anyone, but for a teenager they seem insurmountable. Add to that a bully, grieving parents, and confused friends, and Phoebe is barely keeping her head above water.
I enjoyed the deeply moving emotions that Phoebe experiences and felt drawn into her character and the supporting characters. The tension builds through the story as Phoebe combats rumors and struggles with finding her singing voice. The backdrop of her singing while dealing with her grief/guilt creates a situation where I was rooting for Phoebe as well as hoping she could figure out what she needed to do to heal and trust others with the truth.
I recommend this story with the caveat that it might be a little too sad for highly sensitive readers. The story comes full circle and I loved the ending, but wow, it was hard to get to that point.
Here’s more about the book:
When compared to her nearly perfect little sister, Phoebe Paz Petersen feels she doesn’t measure up in her parents’ eyes. Okalee is smart and beloved for her sunny disposition, which makes it hard for Phoebe to stand out in their small town in Montana. But if she can get picked for the coveted solo in the school choir, she’ll stop being a middle-school nobody and finally get her chance to shine.
Despite her sister’s annoying perfection, Phoebe actually loves spending time with Okalee. They have one very special, secret tradition: River Day―when they hold hands and make their way across the cold, rushing Grayling River, to celebrate the first hint of spring. This year’s River Day crossing, however, goes horribly wrong, and Phoebe’s world is suddenly turned upside down.
Heartbroken and facing life without Okalee, Phoebe is more determined than ever to sing the solo in the school concert as a way of speaking to her sister one last time. But Phoebe’s so traumatized by what happened, she’s lost her beautiful singing voice.
Kat Waters wants the choir solo for herself and is spreading a terrible rumor about what really happened to Okalee on River Day. If Phoebe tells the truth, she believes her family will never forgive her and she may never get to sing her goodbye to Okalee. Even worse, somebody is leaving Phoebe anonymous notes telling her they saw what really happened at the river.
Missing Okalee is an empathy-building novel about the unbreakable bond between sisters and finding the courage to do what’s right amid heartbreak and tragedy.
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