29 October 2010

Hand Over the Maple Candies, and Nobody Gets Hurt

Fixing Delilah by Sarah Ockler (Publish Date: December 1, 2010; Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
A review, by Laura Beutler

Guess what? Lately, I’ve had Christmas once a month—at least. I mean it. Honest-to-goodness Christmas, right here in Indiana. And all because I happened to respond to an e-mail from Little, Brown and Company offering ARCs (Advanced Review Copies) to book-obsessed YA librarians like me. I leapt at the chance. What? Would you say no to free books delivered to your door? Would you say no to reading books before anyone else gets to read them? I didn’t think so. Still, I was sure they’d filled the quota of librarians before they reached my miserable, pathetic, needy little e-mail.

But I was wrong.

The latest shipment? Fixing Delilah by Sarah Ockler. I had just reread Ockler’s Twenty Boy Summer after it was challenged in Republic, MO. The timing was perfect. I promise to tread a careful, spoiler-free line, because this book has not yet hit shelves (thus making me feel all-powerful and fueling my Drive to Acquire ARCs).

I was fated to love Fixing Delilah. It has the best things a book can have: family secrets; old, forgotten diaries; maple sugar candy; and knitting! What could be better? Sure, the knitting part is with dog hair—but it’s knitting all the same. Just…don’t walk around in the rain wearing a dog-hair sweater, is all I’m saying.

Delilah Hannaford won me over in the first chapter. She has a wicked sense of humor: her quips about the little town she’s thrown into for the summer made me laugh throughout the book. When you get to the FOO NASTY part, you’ll understand. I think the fact that I’m from a very, very small town makes the FOO NASTY all the funnier, because I can understand what might lead a business to never, ever replace the burnt-out lights in their storefront sign. If the whole town knows the name of your business, why waste money on electricity? You laugh, but this happens.

Despite my instant Delilah-love, her life is an utter wreck. She’s angry at her workaholic mother; angry at her father for dying before she was born (complicated by the fact he never knew she existed); angry at her school “friends” who choose to humiliate her under the banner of free-press; angry at her non-boyfriend, who is a total sleaze. Often I found myself yelling advice at her through the pages, which is complicated by the fact that I work in a library (And yes, Bailey. I was really yelling. Bailey thinks convention hinders me, forcing me to be quiet in libraries. That’s just because she hasn’t come to visit my library. Yet). People stared. Still, I think Delilah heard me.

After Delilah’s estranged grandmother dies, she and her mother travel to Red Falls, Vermont (home of the glorious maple sugar candies you can’t get in Indiana unless you have black market connections) to settle the estate. Delilah’s mother and Aunt Rachel resolve to sell their family home, and Delilah’s mother enlists Delilah’s help in preparing the house for sale, and yes, that includes cleaning the gutters. Delilah is trapped in Red Falls for her entire summer, which doesn’t turn out half bad, despite her initial reluctance (I think the maple candies won her over).

Of course, as we all know from reality television, nothing brings people together faster than marathon home renovation (and forcing estranged family members to live in close quarters can’t hurt).

As Delilah’s mother and aunt grow closer, Delilah becomes reacquainted with her childhood friend, Patrick. Whom I adore. Because he is a guy who reads—IN PUBLIC. This is a big deal where I come from (Is it a big deal everywhere? Do parts of the world exist where men buy books? If so, tell me where you live and I will move there.) Once, my dad was buying a book at our local “bookstore,” and the cashier stared at him in a mixture of awe and disbelief, saying, “You’re the first man I’ve ever seen buy a book!” (Seriously, that is where I live. You can’t make this stuff up.)

With Patrick’s help, Delilah begins to explore the secrets from her mother’s past, finally learning that family is harder to tear apart than she once thought. Fixing Delilah is a captivating story of loss and love that I couldn’t put down.

(Want to read an excerpt now? Sarah Ockler has posted one on her website—Go read!)


  1. I claim first comment! Muhahaha. (It helps that I fixed your HTML woes and, you know, hit post. Ha!)

    I want this book. December is too far away. But, I have Twenty Boy Summer to review for next month, so that will tide me over. I guess. :)

  2. Bailey, you are my hero. One day, when you have a spare moment, we must have a Skype conversation so that you can teach me how to post things. I always thought I could do these things, but you have SKILLS. And in comparison...I don't.

  3. Laura, thanks so much for your laugh-out-loud review. The FOO(D) (DY)NASTY was a real place in Woodside, Queens, believe it or not! We cracked up every time we went in there! Anyway, I'm so glad you enjoyed Fixing Delilah. :-)

    -Sarah Ockler

  4. Sarah, you have again made my day--you know how to make a girl feel special! I'm glad you liked the review! Now I just have to road-trip to a stop on your next tour to get my copy signed.

    I cannot believe the FOO NASTY is a REAL PLACE. This is Epic. I must go visit this grocery store, or even the empty shell where it once stood.

    (Yes, I just screamed like a little girl because THE Sarah Ockler thought my review was funny.)