I had to call in sick to work one day last week, and I had previously gotten it into my head that I wanted to see if there was anything the Mind Reels could do to help promote the release of Meg Tilly’s latest book, A Taste Of Heaven. Being the amazing folks they are, Penguin couriered a copy over to my apartment that very day, and I read just over half of it in one sitting while I was off sick! I’d have to wait for my next day off to finish it, but there’s really nothing better for a post-snow-storm Saturday afternoon (especially if you aren’t feeling your best) than to curl up with this wonderful book!
Meet Madison Stokes. A fairly average fifth-grader, Madison feels as though there is nothing remarkable about her life (except perhaps for her exceptionally bratty younger sister, Gina), but she doesn’t really mind. She has friends, a family who loves her, and she enjoys going to school every day. As much as anyone can enjoy school, at least.
Everything changes for Madison the day Alyssa Hawkins moves to town and shows up as the new student in her class, a week after the regular school year has begun. Madison is instantly intrigued by the quiet, shy Alyssa, and the two become fast friends. Both girls have always wanted a friend like this – a best friend – someone you know you can trust with anything and everything. And despite the fact that they come from two very different lifestyles, their friendship grows stronger with each passing day. Alyssa starts spending more and more time at Madison’s house but, for some reason, she never invites Madison to visit her own home. In fact, Alyssa never talks about her family or home life at all.
When Madison discovers that Alyssa has been keeping the most awesome secret ever, she is pinky-sworn to secrecy, and promises to not even tell her own family about what Alyssa has been hiding. But secrets – even good ones – have a way of coming out eventually, and they take a toll on their keepers in the meantime. How far will Madison go to keep her best friend’s secret, and how much will it cost her to do so?
I’ve been a growing fan of the way Tilly weaves words together for some time now, so it was no surprise to me that A Taste Of Heaven would be a sheer delight to read. Madison Stokes is a wonderful, strong, courageous, creative, and hilarious protagonist, and it’s easy to walk with her through the highs and lows of her friendship with Alyssa. I found myself drawn into Madison’s world right from the start – her excitement became my excitement, her heartache my heartache, and her joy absolutely became mine, as well.
And oh, how we laughed! I woke my cats up from their naps more than once from laughing out loud at the girls’ antics throughout the story, and before it was through, I’d been moved to tears. You know, occasionally. I’m not an emotional mess, or anything – the story just touched me deeply at times, is all. I never had a best friend like that, you see, but I watched other people have similar friendships, so the fact that Madison and Alyssa allowed me to tag along on theirs was an extremely special and wonderful journey for me. Had I read this book when I was younger, it would have been quickly dog-earred and well-worn from love. As an adult, I plan to read it more than once, but hopefully take better care of it on a physical level than I would have as a kid!
If you are a young girl, or know a young girl, or have ever been a young girl, you need to read this book, for the story itself is timeless, and transcends silly, superficial things like age and gender. It’s a story about friendship, cookies, pancakes and Scrabble with Grandpa on a weekend afternoon. It’s about building forts, matching Halloween costumes, chocolate chips and reading old comic books by the glow of a flashlight. It’s about baseball gloves, bike rides, and keeping a secret for a friend, no matter what.
It’s a story about love.
A Taste of Heaven is geared towards readers aged 8-12 years old, and can be found wherever books are sold starting February 12, 2013.
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