Harper: The Snakes by Sadie Jones

The Line Tender

Driven by two tragedies, Lucy Everhart works hard the summer she's 12 to complete two projects. The first is creating a natural field guide for school extra credit, and the second is jump-starting a scientific proposal initiated by her marine biologist mother shortly before her death five years ago. Her mother had been studying the correlation between the rebounding seal population and the number of great white sharks showing up off Cape Cod, Mass., near Lucy's family's home.

When numerous great whites are spotted and a shark gets caught in a family friend's fishing net, Lucy, as illustrator, and best friend Fred, as scientific writer, take copious notes for the field guide. Even as their creative partnership is cemented, their friendship seems to be shifting to something new--confusing, but not unwelcome. Then a devastating accident leaves Lucy reeling. It's not until she digs out her late mother's proposal that she finds an unexpected way to begin working through her grief, past and present.

In The Line Tender, debut author Kate Allen has created a landscape that, in spite of being filled with big, heartbreaking themes of loss, is understated and exquisitely, beautifully real. Lucy, whose father is a detective and rescue diver, relates to the role of line tender: the person who holds the line on the surface while the primary diver goes underwater in scuba diving. "The line tender sees everything," Lucy's father tells her. "Reads the divers' signals, the terrain, the equipment. Uses all the resources to stay connected to the other end of the line." Just so, Lucy tends to the important connections of her life, ensuring that the lines tethering her family, friends and even the scientific community stay firmly attached at both ends. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor