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Friday, May 21, 2010

The Stillburrow Crush by Linda Kage

The Stillburrow Crush by Linda Kage
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length Full Length (212 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 4.5 suns
Reviewed by Snapdragon

Sixteen year old, Carrie Paxton, isn't the most popular girl in her small town of Stillburrow. But that's never concerned her before. Her life revolves around her writing, and she loves her job as the student editor of the school paper.

But when she gets assigned to interview the football team's beloved quarterback, she takes one look into Luke Carter's blue eyes and is a goner. Suddenly, she doesn't like her lowly rank so much.

Then her dreamy, popular crush surprises her when he starts to act as if he likes her in return. But there's no way Luke Carter could possibly ever like a nobody like Carrie Paxton.

Harsh reality sets in for teen Carrie Paxton as she stares at the mountain of flowers on a classmate's closed casket and thinks about the accident and the past. Small details, like the incredible number of cars in the motorcade, have enormous emotional impact.

But then, the story doesn't dwell on the funeral. Flashbacks slide seemlessly into the body of the tale and the reader is turned immediately to events at school. The main character, Carrie, is so real we easily share both her surprise, and perhaps a sense of triumph, that Luke Carter actually knows her name and remembers her from their trig class. Is it that surprise that makes her take a combative role in her interview with him? Or just too stern a grasp of High School reality?

For a high school sports legend, Luke isn't pompous at all. He is the best looking, most popular and richest guy in school, so she expects him to be a jerk and we expect him to be a jerk, heck, we almost want him to be a jerk! Especially since Carrie so hastily acknowledges she has 'no chance' with him. It would be so much easier to write him off, rather than acknowledge the attraction.

Secondary characters are not stereotypical at all, either (although sometimes Carrie seems to expect them to be.) Even brother Marty, who seems so typically a brother, has surprises in store. And we all like Luke more and more, even while kind of cheering for Carrie's 'bring it' style. Dialogue is snappy, believable, and frequently confrontational. Loved it!

Ms. Kage also has a gift for unusual, meaningful description. Tactile details enhance the evocative aura at the outset. We are beautifully in tune with our main character's emotions. Later, by the ending portion of the story, she sadly offers less in the way of evocative detail, and I'd have liked fewer flashbacks. However, by that point, I was so engaged in finding out what happens, I certainly continued reading...and suddenly, more unexpected conflicts, or outright disaster, leaped up. There are many emotionally charged moments. Occasional references to faith enriched the story, but sometimes seem a bit artificial.

The Stillburrow Crush is intriguing from the outset, and deals with issues teens hear about, may be curious or even worried about, but sometimes have not yet personally experienced. Ms. Kage exhibits a keen understanding of the social circles and impact of popularity in most high schools, (not to mention small town USA) and the impact of gossipy whispers: making this all the more plausible. You don't have to be high school age to be intrigued; do read The Stillburrow Crush.

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