What Most People Lack the Guts to Say About Grief – August Isle by Ali Standish

 Survivor guilt by proxy is definitely a thing, and if trauma therapist won’t listen to me, then maybe they’ll listen to Ali Standish and her awesome books. This lady says things about grief that most of us don’t have the guts to. 

Thank you Kidlit Exchange and Harper Collins for the Advance Reader Copy of Ali Standish’s AUGUST ISLE

Summary

Thirteen-year-old Miranda’s absent, workaholic mom sends her to live with family friends for the summer on August Isle, where she’d grown up and will never discuss. 

Miranda quickly befriends “Aunt” Clare’s daughter Sammi (born Samira), and they track down the island’s legend of a ghost and a buried treasure. But when the ghost turns out to be eccentric but kind Mr. Taylor, Miranda learns she’s found the buried “treasure” of the truth about some dangerous and tragic family secrets. 

Caveat

(Contains spoilers)

  • I would have loved to see an acknowledgment that “Mr. Taylor“ was really creepy to tell a bunch of kids he didn’t know to come to his house every single day as a bargaining tool. Yes, he’s Miranda’s grandfather but… ick! 

Loved

This review is not about “me” (but aren’t all reading experiences to some degree?): The way Miranda’s family’s buried grief had ripple effects throughout their lives really spoke to me and is the mirror/window I would have loved at Miranda’s age. Fictional Miranda and I have a good deal in common, and I’ll just leave it there.

But here’s why someone else without those awful experiences would go for this book:

  • Brilliantly done theme, that most people are lying to themselves and others, but that the truth comes back to bite us in the butt anyway.
  • Mr. Taylor’s (he still handled that horribly) collectibles and stories have a neat 1,001 Nights vibe (minus the impending murder)
  • Seriously, the whole tendency to scapegoat kids who’ve survived accidents that other children did not; treat people with PTSD like they’re weird or a burden; and survivor guilt by proxy aren’t discussed enough. Standish’s books are the only place I’ve ever seen this “mirror”. Not cool, other 350 million people in the USA. 
  • So many fun facts and “stories within a story”. I won’t call this a “1001 Nights retelling” but it’s a close tangent. 
  • Sub-plot of Miranda’s “cousins” Sammi/Samira and Jai struggling with their biracial/bicultural identity is brilliant.  
  • Miranda’s parents do make plans for family counseling at the end, which thanks Ali for de-stigmatizing that. 💖

Mentor Text for:

  • Almost everyone in this book is hiding something, and if you go back and re-read, you can see some of the seeds of truth planted throughout. 

In short, Standish’s books keep getting better and better. 

AUGUST ISLE is available now from HarperCollins. 

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