by Laura Ojeda Melchor
When compared to her nearly perfect little sister, Phoebe Paz Petersen feels she doesn’t measure up in her parents’ eyes. Okalee is smart and beloved for her sunny disposition, which makes it hard for Phoebe to stand out in their small town in Montana. But if she can get picked for the coveted solo in the school choir, she’ll stop being a middle-school nobody and finally get her chance to shine.
Despite her sister’s annoying perfection, Phoebe actually loves spending time with Okalee. They have one very special, secret tradition: River Day―when they hold hands and make their way across the cold, rushing Grayling River, to celebrate the first hint of spring. This year’s River Day crossing, however, goes horribly wrong, and Phoebe’s world is suddenly turned upside down.
Heartbroken and facing life without Okalee, Phoebe is more determined than ever to sing the solo in the school concert as a way of speaking to her sister one last time. But Phoebe’s so traumatized by what happened, she’s lost her beautiful singing voice.
Kat Waters wants the choir solo for herself and is spreading a terrible rumor about what really happened to Okalee on River Day. If Phoebe tells the truth, she believes her family will never forgive her and she may never get to sing her goodbye to Okalee. Even worse, somebody is leaving Phoebe anonymous notes telling her they saw what really happened at the river.
Missing Okalee is an empathy-building novel about the unbreakable bond between sisters and finding the courage to do what’s right amid heartbreak and tragedy.
Check out the Review!
Review by Melissa Dalton Martinez
From talented debut author Laura Ojeda Melchor comes Missing Okalee, a beautifully tragic but empathy-building novel for middle-grade readers and beyond.
At the start, one of the things I really loved in this book is that Laura builds on her Cuban heritage and really allows her loving culture to shine. The story begins with a girl in middle school named Phoebe. She is the off-child, and everyone wants her to be like her perfect little sister Okalee. Though her sister seems to have it all, Phoebe loves her regardless. When tragedy strikes and Phoebe loses her little sister, you follow along on this heart-wrenching and gripping story. Laura Ojeda Melchor has a way of really pulling the reader in. You feel for the family, feel for what it’s like to go through a hard time, what it’s like to deal with guilt when you tell a lie, and how you get through that.
This is a phenomenal middle-grade book, great for kids, but great for parents too. It definitely made me shed a few tears, so do not forget your tissues when you sit down to read. What I really liked is that though this book hits on heavy topics, the story is told in a light enough way that is digestible for kids. It doesn’t sugar coat reality, but it teaches how to work through hard times and find the light at the end of the tunnel, all while instilling great morals. I really feel that this book can help parents and kids navigate how to deal with grief and bullying and understand the importance of telling the truth and what might happen if you don’t. And, if you do lie, how to work yourself out of a seemingly impossible hole. Missing Oklaee is a wonderful book to open communication between parents and kids about difficult topics.