Sam Abernathy’s story, prequel to the Winger novels, has quickly become one of my favorites among Andrew Smith’s works. Although the books are middle grade level, they are rich with wisdom, wit, and curiosity. The first in the series, The Size of the Truth, gave us much background on a beloved character from the Winger novels, and this second book (in what I hope will be a series?) continues to follow Sam as he grows up, enrichens his friendships, learns to overcome fear and prejudices, wanders rudderless through his first crush, and even meets his hero. In other words, he lives a life so many of us remember with both fondness and awkward embarrassment, our youth and the universal elements of it that we almost all share.
Where The Size of the Truth does an excellent job of introducing us to Sam and his world, Bye-Bye Blue Creek, as the title suggests, shows us how Sam is preparing to say goodbye to all of that. And the reader, like Sam, having gotten to know these characters and this quaint little town in the last book, must also learn how to say farewell to them all. One thing Smith seems to be suggesting is that, no matter where or when we are in life, one thing we all must face at some point, perhaps at many points, is the need to say goodbye to what we know and love. And even when the next step is necessary, exciting, and a great adventure, it is sure to come with a bit of fear and apprehension, and even regret over what we’re leaving behind. There are a few very important lessons we learn when we’re young, and this one is perhaps one of the most difficult and most significant.
Beneath the larger themes is a riot of a tale involving a mystery house, a mystery boy–strange indeed!-and a long-lost history of Blue Creek, involving Sam’s own father and the haunted house down the street. Can Sam and his friends get to the bottom of the mystery? As the weeks quickly race by toward Sam’s final goodbye, they scour the library and investigate the past in order to understand the present. And while they do so, they learn a little bit more about themselves, their families, and one another.
Andrew Smith does it again. One definitely needs to read The Size of the Truth before this one, if the story and its call-backs are to be fully understood and appreciated; fortunately, I can highly recommend both.