Ebb & Flow
[A] poignant story, told in free verse, of eleven-year-old Jett. Last year, Jett and his mother had moved to a new town for a fresh start after his father went to jail. But Jett soon learned that fresh starts aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. When he befriended a boy with a difficult home life, Jett found himself in a cycle of bad decisions that culminated in the betrayal of a friend — a shameful secret he still hasn’t forgiven himself for. Will a summer spent with his unconventional grandmother help Jett find his way to redemption?
Writing in artfully crafted free-verse vignettes, Heather T. Smith uses a deceptively simple style to tell a powerful and emotionally charged story. The engaging narrative and the mystery of Jett’s secret keep the pages turning and will appeal to both reluctant and avid readers. This captivating book offers a terrific opportunity for classroom discussions about the many ways to tell a story and how a small number of carefully chosen words can have a huge impact. It also showcases the positive character traits of empathy resilience, courage, and responsibility. (Goodreads)
Ebb & Flow is a children’s novel about a boy, a “big little man,” mistakes, and regret. It touches on some tough subjects, including domestic abuse and alcoholism. Despite its simplicity, this book was intense. It will make you uncomfortable, and it will piss you off, but it’s still a very important book. I’m a little surprised that it’s being marketed towards a younger audience, but honestly, I feel like kids need to be aware of this kind of thing so they can recognize it when it’s happening and know what to do when they see it. Sure, ignorance may be bliss in some instances, but not when it comes to saving someone else from a harmful situation.
We come into this story after Jett is sent away to live with his grandmother for the summer. Through intricate storytelling and back-and-forth timelines, we learn about Jett’s past and the choices he made that led to this “vacation.” Though he gets to spend his summer hunting for treasures on the beach with his quirky, blue-haired grandmother, Jett is plagued with memories of his life back home. He is constantly reminded of the people he has wronged and the mistakes he has made, and through these reminders, we are introduced to a world of heartbreak and pain and the blurred lines that often exist between what is right and what is wrong.
Though Smith uses simplistic language to tell Jett’s story, the words still hold such power and strength. I feel like the story hits even harder because of this writing style. Stories of tough times always seem harder to hear when they come from a child. I’ve included a brief excerpt below to give you guys a taste of Smith’s style:
It got quite a bashing,
that little piece of glass.
It spent years caught in the ocean waves.
It was tossed around
and beaten down,
it washed up on shore.
Now look at it —
what was once a piece
of broken glass
is now something better —
it’s a gem.
Even after all that battering?
Because of all that battering.
Though I deeply enjoyed and loved this book, it also made me incredibly mad. Seeing how people can know something’s wrong but refuse to do anything about it, it’s just unbelievable. Especially when it comes to abuse. I saw a report the other day of a man who lost his daughter because child services refused to listen when everyone — the father, the child care employees, everyone — sent in reports of an abusive mother. And yet, child services refused to listen, and they refused to do anything to fix the situation, and now that little girl is dead. It’s disgusting the things that happen because of the people who don’t react appropriately. Absolutely disgusting.
Despite the anger this novel made me feel, it’s worth every bit of the 5 stars I’m giving it. Though it’s marketed as a children’s book, I absolutely think people of all ages should pick this book up when it comes out. It’s a beautifully told tale of the hardships that children shouldn’t have to live through. Maybe, after reading this book, more people on the sidelines will be able to recognize the signs and act on them before it’s too late.