Erin E. Moulton. Tracing Stars. New York: Philomel Books, 2012. 233 pgs.
I was wandering through the JUV section of my local library this afternoon, and this cover image caught my eye. A kid sitting in a tree by the ocean? I scanned the jacket flap — a misfit girl who loves fish? And her name is Indie (which happens to be one of my younger cousin’s nicknames)? Super!
For the next hour or so, I read a good 1/3 of the book with mixed feelings — enough troubled ones that I didn’t power through to the end right there in the library, but enough good ones that I brought it home.
I liked Indie very much. I liked how she would list the names of fish to herself as a way of coping with stressful situations (I’m reminded of Kathi Appelt’s lists of trees and snakes in The Underneath…incidentally, there’s a blurb by Appelt on the back cover…also incidentally, Moulton got her MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts, where Appelt has taught…). I liked the flashback to Indie and her sister, Bebe, making fish faces at each other and trying to guess what kind of fish each was imitating. I liked how my mental image of Indie eventually settled on Lauren Hewett, the actress who played Mera in Ocean Girl.
I hated present-day Bebe — how she’d constantly make Indie feel like a freak and an embarrassment. And it made me so sad that Indie would take her sister’s words to heart, and actually try to change herself to fit Bebe’s expectations.
I liked the small-coastal-town setting, and the contemporary details that helped me pin down the time period (an iPod, a High School Musical poster…), and the just-enough fleshed out neighbors like Mr. Gallson (the town officer with an annoying hero complex and not enough to do) and Sloth (one of the set designers at the Oceanside Players theater; she’s “of the punk persuasion”).
I hated how useless Indie’s parents became, especially toward the end. In fact, they reminded me of the adults in Invisible Inkling, because at one point, they seemed to be punishing Indie for standing up for herself and her friends.
I felt mixed about the too-quick/too-easy resolutions.
. . . . . . . .
So, in retrospect, it’s a fairly predictable story about learning to be yourself and choosing integrity over popularity.
And I still think Indie Lee Chickory is an awesome name.