Grover, Lorie Ann. Loose Threads. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2002. ISBN 978-0689844195 296 pp. $
A strong debut novel that reaches close to the sparkle of Mel Glenn and the complexity of Abelove’s Saying it Out Loud, this novel in poems about what happens to a family of four strong women when Grandma Margie develops breast cancer falls somewhere between Lurlene McDaniel tearjerker and Sonya Sones brilliant.
Kay Gerber, smack dab in the middle of puberty, finds that she worries about issues she knows her friends will never have to deal with, and the poems, written in her clear and clever voice impart her hopes and anxieties in the midst of school assignments and family card games. Some of the best poems happen when Kay, obviously preoccupied by her grandmother’s condition while in school, finds herself thinking in terms of cancer in all of her classes, creating a black mask with red stitches in art and in “Pre-algebra Now: an equation: “X can only be one number./ Y can only be one number/for the perfect equation./If X is Grandma Margie,/and Y is health, / then the perfect equation/equals/life.”
The inevitable reference to Amazonian archers is here alongside the mother who doesn’t tell the rest of the family about her own lump scare until she discovers it is benign. The befriending of the school scapegoat allows Kay to take some action instead of remaining a passive character. The crochet motif is beautifully woven in from title to the first poem the last poem, and the novel leaves off where every good YA novel should: on the brink of a commencement. The dialogue poems don’t work quite as well as the strictly narrative ones, but the emotion is there if the fine-tuning isn’t. This book with high girl appeal is not a necessity; purchase where poetry is popular.