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The Line Tender

Book review by
Joly Herman, Common Sense Media
The Line Tender Book Poster Image
Story of loss explores life in and out of the ocean.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Lucy picks up where her marine biologist mother left off -- researching sharks and their habits becomes her mission in the story. Very detailed exploration of shark anatomy includes a necropsy (an autopsy of a shark) described very realistically.

Positive Messages

Don't resist pain; let yourself feel it. Adapt and adjust to life. The best defense for anything is a good job. Real women take risks. Talking to people about your feelings helps to sort them out. Everyone deals with loss differently, and that's OK. People can love each other their whole lives through.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Lucy is a girl among men. Her dad is a widower, her neighbor, Mr. Patterson, is like a grandfather, and Sookie, her mom and dad's friend, is always around. They watch out for Lucy in their imperfect, sometimes clumsy ways. Lucy confides in a school adjustment counselor, Mr. Scanlon, to get help when she's grieving.

Violence

A main character dies in an accident after engaging in underage drinking. Lucy's father is a detective who pulls victims out of the water "dead or alive." A parent gets drunk and frightens a tween with her angry behavior. Gory details of fishing-related injuries and very graphic shark autopsy describe bloody messes.  

Sex

Lucy's dad is naked in the yard, putting on his scuba suit, which a neighbor notices and comments about his hairy behind. Lucy can't take her eyes off the breasts of a comic book heroine. Kids talk and joke about sex organs of animals. Preteens kiss.

Language

"Jesus," "crap", "farty," bitches," "pissed," "hell."

Consumerism

Tootsie Rolls, Midol, Volvo, Silver Palate Cookbook, Tang, Red Sox, Vaseline, Led Zeppelin, Miles Davis, Pink Floyd, Marvel Comics, Boone's Farms, Wild Turkey, Colt 45, Boston Whaler, Herbie Hancock, Oakley, Canada Dry, Moxie soda, Cumberland Farms, IGA, Coke, Greenpeace, Popsicle, Doritos, Cheerios

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A tween drinks too much alcohol and dies in an accident. Alcohol includes Boone's Farm, Colt 45, Wild Turkey, wine. Underage drinking and trespassing in the story lead to risky behavior. A parent drinks too much and behaves threateningly to the extent that Lucy admits being "terrified."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Kate Allen's The Line Tender deals with deaths of a parent and a peer. Underage drinking and consequent risky behavior result in a character's death. Some nonsexual adult nudity, adult drunkenness, and neglectful parenting take place. Lucy has trouble swallowing because of a traumatic event, and she loses a lot of weight as a consequence, An extremely graphic autopsy of a shark includes description of dead shark pups still in the mother shark's uterus. The mother shark's jaws are sawed out of her mouth: "It was a bloody mess that turned all of the shark's white parts pink-orange." A character then holds the "dripping jaws" in the air and has a photo taken. Though done in the name of biology, the dissection is graphic and could be jarring to sensitive readers.

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What's the story?

In THE LINE TENDER, almost-13-year-old Lucy Everhart feels compelled to finish the life's work that her deceased mother left behind. This work is about discovering the secrets behind the mysterious lives of sharks. The year is 1991-- before Google was a thing-- and the place is the seaport town of Rockport, Massachusetts. When a local fisherman named Sookie reels in a gargantuan white shark, Lucy and her friend Fred decide to investigate. But its disappearance and an ensuing tragedy pull Lucy deeper into the unfinished research that her marine biologist mother left behind. She gets Sookie, her injured father, and the grandfatherly neighbor to help her follow her mother's research, taking them to Maine and Cape Cod. All the while, Lucy looks at the grief that she carries in her body and her psyche, and finds a strength she didn't know she possessed.

Is it any good?

Nature plays a starring role in this story of stunning loss that's poignant, stark, and at times funny. In The Line Tender, Lucy Everhart carries a heavy load as a child who lost her mom at age 7 and whose dad is rarely around to put food in the fridge. When a friend tragically dies, her obsession with her late-mother's research blossoms. She finds that she needs to make sense of her mom's life work in order to make sense of her own life. These things feel realistic.The description of life in a coastal town is vividly and intimately described.

But, kids might notice that Lucy's voice is not always in tune with her age. She's 12, but she sometimes sounds like a 25-year-old graduate student. ("My body was starting to show signs of weight loss after only two weeks.")  Describing her mother in a video, she mentions "watching her navigate a strange world so capably." But then she describes the sound of the police radio as "farty." It makes Lucy seem a little random, as if she's not a fully fleshed-out character grounded in her age. But the setting and the action feel real, and readers who interested in marine life will get to know sharks nearly as well as the humans observing them.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Lucy copes with death in The Line Tender. Is there a specific way that characters in books or movies cope with death? What's normal? 

  • What happens when a relationship changes from friendship to romance? What are the risks? Is the media realistic about how preteens date?

  • How does Lucy get adults to help her follow her interests? What interests do you have that might turn into a career?

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