The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster

  • Cary Fagan
  • Tundra, 2019

After Hartley's brother Jackson runs away from home, Hartley's family loses its way. Feeling ignored and out of sorts, Hartley is rummaging in the local library when he discovers a mysterious numbered postcard signed g.o. A few days later he finds another. Soon Hartley is on the hunt for g.o. and further postcards. If only he could discover a satisfactory topic for his end-of-term project at the same time!

The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster is a delightfully quirky novel about facing our personal darkness. It makes artful use of meta-fiction and draws on Gretchen Oyster as an occasional second narrator to maintain its graceful narrative balance. Gretchen's postcards, illustrated in the book, add a further layer to the gorgeously textured story. The book is a puzzle novel: the runaway plot masks a much more important story, and the book will reward reflection, lingering, and repeated readings — I certainly wanted to read it again as soon as I finished it.

Hartley is an endearing narrator whose cranky resilience many readers will find relatable. The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster could be used easily and enjoyably as a novel study with either a class or a strong independent reader. It should also be a popular book with middle-grade readers (particularly those on the cusp of YA). Expect to see this book on award lineups and Young Reader's Choice lists in the months and years to come. Enthusiastically recommended.