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Eggs by Jerry Spinelli

By Caroline | Books | December 10, 2009 |

By Caroline | Books | December 10, 2009 |

I am reading Jerry Spinelli’s 2007 children’s novel Eggs in sync with a sixth-grade boy, and he’s told me while we’re reading it that he isn’t sure what’s going on. He’s right — the plot is confusing or at least minimal, a framework upon which to hang two sad, interesting characters. I am not sure it succeeds, but I found myself caring about the two children and the idiosyncrasies each had developed as defense mechanisms.

David is nine, and relatively new in town since the death of his mother less than a year ago. He lives with his father and grandmother and his reaction to profound, crippling grief is to clam up. The few times he speaks to his grandmother at first are to wound her, discouraging any further efforts at communication. Primrose is 13, fatherless, with an unreliable, sometimes uncaring mother who makes a living as a fortuneteller. She is pretty mean, hard to like, and just motherly enough that David grows very attached.

David is a natural, empathetic character — the way Spinelli describes David’s method for coping with his mother’s death is plausible for any real child. Further, David lets himself be carried along as only a nine year old can, speaks believable dialogue, and is not ashamed of his own fears or feelings. The problem with the book is Primrose, who may be a victim of insufficient character development. She is shrill and bipolar, acting out in truly odd ways and encapsulating the reason we dislike movies with too much quirk: Because the details don’t hang together naturally, I can’t suspend my disbelief and enjoy the story.

My favorite bit in the book came early, when David’s rationalization of his mother’s death is explained:

For David believed that if he went a long enough time without breaking a rule — a year, five years, twenty — piling up a million obediences, a billion — sooner or later, somehow, somewhere, a debt would be paid, a score would be settled, and his mother would come back.

And another favorite, at the book’s opposite end:

Of course, all of their words for a thousand years could not fill the hole left by his mother, but they could raise a loving fence around it so he didn’t keep falling in.

This review is part of the Cannonball Read series. For more of Caroline’s reviews, please check her blog, Of a Golden Age.

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