Lemons - Melissa Savage

How do you make lemonade out of having to leave everything you know in San Francisco to move to the small town of Willow Creek, California and live with a grandfather you’ve never even met? In a town that smells like grass and mud and bugs. With tall pines instead of skyscrapers and dirt instead of sidewalks. Not to mention one woolly beast lurking in the woods. That’s right, Bigfoot.

A ginormous wooden statue of the ugly thing stands right at the center of town like he’s someone real important, like the mayor or something. And the people here actually believe he’s real and hiding somewhere out in the pine filled forests. How can anyone possibly be expected to make lemonade out those rotten lemons?

Everything is different and Lem just wants to go back home. And then she meets Tobin Sky, the CEO of Bigfoot Detectives, Inc. and sole investigator for the town. He invites her to be his Assistant for the summer and she reluctantly agrees. At least until she can figure out her escape plan.

After the death of her mother, Lemonade (Lem), send to live with a grandfather she's never met, in a town she's never been to before. She is discouraged at first, and feels like her grandfather, Charlie, doesn't care about her. On top of that, she meets Tobin, a boy obsessed with Bigfoot, who just won't leave Lem alone! As she helps Tobin research Bigfoot sightings around town, she meets potential new friends as well as a number of adults who knew her mother and are able to share stories of her childhood.

Melissa Savage's new novel is sweet, quiet, and heartwarming. There is a subtle urgency underlying the surface narrative, exploring Lem's sorrow and Tobin's hope that his missing father will eventually return home. The two are dynamic characters whose friendship is hopeful and their emotionally tumultuous experiences in life make them incredibly sympathetic as well. As Lem develops her relationships with her grandfather and others in her new home, readers are given the opportunity to see everyone mature and thrive, including Charlie.

One of the other things I really enjoyed about this book was the ambiguity in the Bigfoot sub-plot. They find possible evidence of a Bigfoot, but there is a larger reveal (I found this to be a bit overly obvious) that partially debunks some of the evidence. Even in the face of this, though, there are still some unsolved elements that will leave readers wondering if Bigfoot is actually real! There are also a few overly sentimental moments, in my opinion, but in a way they do fit with the overall tone of the book.

In the end, Lemons is quirky, refreshing, and contains an emotional depth not always seen in middle grade novels.

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