Little Blog on the Prairie by Cathleen Davitt Bell wasn’t on my radar at all, but the title caught my eye while I was passing through the YA section in the library.
The premise: Gen comes from a modern family where each member tends to operate mostly apart from the others. Gen’s mom, a “Little House on the Prairie addict,” decides the whole family would benefit from a vacation to “Camp Frontier,” where everyone is supposed to live like it’s 1890.
No one else in the family is happy about it. Gen only acquiesces when her mom shows her a new cell phone and tells her she can have it when they get back from vacation. But Gen smuggles the phone into camp with her, and when she can find some privacy, she texts her two best friends about how horrible everything is. The friends make a blog out of her texts, which then goes viral, which brings a news crew out to see what’s going on.
Some reviewers objected to Gen’s sarcastic, whiny attitude, but I think they missed the point that she changes during the course of the book. She realizes at one point that her attitude is ruining the experience for her mother, who had looked forward to it. She finds there is satisfaction in seeing the results of hard work. She comes to find that hastily sent words made public can come back to haunt her. It takes the family a long time, but they do learn the value of pulling together and enjoying each other’s company. But the author isn’t saying that going back to a “simpler” time is the answer to modern problems: first of all, they weren’t so simple, and second of all, people without modern conveniences had personal and family issues, too.
Gen is just finishing eighth grade as the book begins, so in my book she’s too young to be kissing a guy near the end and having him tell her that her dress is sexy. There’s mention of an obscene gesture coming from a younger girl. It’s written from a modern secular viewpoint. So for all those reasons I don’t know that I would give the book to a young teen, at least not without some discussion about those and Gen’s attitude. But it does bring out some timeless truths without being heavy-handed about it.
(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books)