Helen Frost‘s masterful novel-in-poems When My Sister Started Kissing features Claire and Abigail at their summer cottage on the lake, where they navigate a new stepmother, boys, kissing, and memories.
Claire, the younger of the two, is the main narrator, and can’t understand how her sister wants to be called Abi now, how she wants to go to the beach together but then split up, and how she wants to call their stepmother Mom. Abi narrates a few chapters, and at key points, Heartstone Lake narrates, allowing the reader to step back and see the story from an outside perspective. Each character narrates with honesty, clarity and emotional truth, making this a unique book in that no one person is the antagonist. Perhaps more than anything, circumstances and lack of communication create the story tension.
Most of all, it’s the tone that struck me: authentic and respectful of this time in a child’s life that everything seems to be changing.