Monday, September 26, 2011

Lark Book Review

Author: Tracey Porter. Release date: 2011. Publisher:  HarperCollins Children’s Books. ISBN: 9780061122873.
Annotation:  After sixteen-year-old Lark Austin is brutally murdered, her friends, Nyetta and Eve, have difficulty coping with her death, especially when Lark’s ghost begins to haunt Nyetta.
Personal thoughts:  Wow, this was definitely not a fluffy YA book by any stretch of the imagination. I was very impressed by how Porter managed to include so much in such a short novel, and think that it shows something about her literary prowess. I had difficulty reading portions of the novel, especially those describing Lark’s murder, but think that this book is a very important read, especially for teen girls and anyone who has been affected by the loss of a friend.  
Plot summary: Vivacious sixteen-year-old Lark Austin is brutally murdered in the woods near the neighborhood she grew up in with friends Eve and Nyetta. After her death, Nyetta is haunted by the ghost of Lark who believes she will turn into a tree, the fate of other girls who were murdered in the woods. Eve is also haunted, but only with memories of Lark and the experiences they had growing up as best friends. Nyetta becomes more and more upset when it seems that she will not be able to help Lark escape her fate of being trapped in the forest for eternity. Will the two friends be able to cope with Lark’s murder and help her soul rest peacefully?
Review: Told in alternating voices between Nyetta, Lark and Eve, this short but powerful tale manages to accomplish quite a bit for its length. The gamut of emotions are present in this story: horror at the rape, brutal beating and murder of Lark, despair in the mind of her friend Eve who must cope with the death, mystery at what exactly is happening with Nyetta and Lark’s ghost, and hope that the friends, and town, will eventually be able to move on following the tragedy. Porter also includes some very tough issues in Lark besides the murder, including divorce, sexual assault and molestation. These themes, however, are not over-the-top and serve to help the reader understand how an entire community can be impacted from the loss of a promising and vivacious girl. Overall, Lark is a very moving and, at times, difficult read that is original in its telling and memorable.
Genre: Drama/Ghost Story
Reading level: Grade 9+
Similar titles: The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold.
Themes:  Murder, death, loss, friendship, ghosts, divorce, sexual abuse.  
Awards/Reviews:  Positive reviews from School Library Journal and Horn Book.
Series Information: N/A  
Discussion questions:
- What would you say is the primary theme of Lark? Why?
- Do you think that Nyetta was truly haunted by the ghost of Lark, or was this the result of her difficulty in coping with the loss of her role model?
- How did the concept of the “girls in trees” make you feel? What did you think the author wanted the reader to feel when considering this idea?
- Why do think that Eve had trouble kissing or being physical with Ian?
- What steps can you take to avoid what happened to Lark?

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