Meg Rosoff's The Great Godden is a first-rate coming-of-age novel told by an astute and appealing unnamed narrator over the course of one uncharacteristically fraught seaside summer.
When the narrator and their family arrive for the annual visit at their much-loved, "picturesque and annoying" beach house, each of them--Mum and Dad, the four kids, Dad's cousin Hope and her boyfriend Mal--"radiates optimism" that it will be the best summer ever. But this year there are two surprises: after 12 years together, "Malanhope" will marry at summer's end. And film star Florence Godden's two sons will be staying with Malanhope at Hope's beach house. Kit Godden is a "golden Greek statue of a youth," oozing wealth and privilege, while his brother, Hugo, is "bony and awkward." Kit makes sure to catch the gaze of any and all parties who might find him irresistible, and "within four seconds" he's charmed Mattie, the narrator's 16-year-old sister, "practically to death." What ensues is a summer so full of angst and "apocalypse" that the entire family is left reeling for years to come.
The Great Godden is filled with equal parts drama and reflection, a riveting novel of love and betrayal that is deftly and elegantly written. Rosoff (Picture Me Gone; Jonathan Unleashed) allows her self-aware and observant narrator to speak through the lens of hindsight, leaving a trail of tantalizing clues. The unnamed protagonist, now older and wiser, seems to have weathered a summer of manipulation and mind games, and readers will find this story a compelling summertime--or anytime--read. --Lynn Becker, blogger and host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI