Old Photographs by Sherie Posesorski
Phoebe is your average girl–she does alright in school, enjoys sports, and has a terribly distracting crush on Colin, the top debater from the local boys school’s debate team. Trying to while away the summer months while her only friend, Yuri, spends the holidays in Tokyo, Phoebe passes the time cycling and reading Agatha Christie novels (Yuri’s favorites). One day, Phoebe spots a garage sale and decides to take a look around. Sure enough, she finds all kinds of treasures, but the best find of all is Mrs. Tomblin, the elderly woman running the garage sale. Noticing a couple trying to take advantage of Mrs. Tomblin’s too-trusting nature, Phoebe steps in to make sure she isn’t abused and soon learns why Mrs. Tomblin is being forced to leave the home she’s lived in since she was married. Taking to her, Phoebe starts to learn more about Mrs. Tomblin, offering her assistance whenever the happen to meet her. When Mrs. Tomblin becomes the victim of a crime, Phoebe wants her friend to receive the justice she deserves–the last thing she expects is to find herself caught up in a mystery the likes of which only Miss Marple can solve… Does Phoebe have what it takes to become the Toronto Miss Marple and solve the case?
Old Photographs was a treat to read. Phoebe comes across as a real teen with all the insecurities and idealism that comes with being a teen. She has a complicated relationship with her mother and new stepfather, she misses her family, and she wishes she could understand how to make things better for everyone involved, but she isn’t perfect and this isn’t a fairy tale. Family life is depicted in all its messy, irrational glory, as are the feelings stirred by poverty and privilege. Her crush on Colin is sweet and entirely understandable–smart boy with an Irish brogue, what girl wouldn’t crush on him? But what I found most thought-provoking and inspiring about the novel was its very real treatment of aging and Alzheimer’s. I haven’t read many Young Adult novels that touch on the subject, most being the sole territory of the young and adventurous; Phoebe’s relationship with Mrs. Tomblin illustrates all the frustrations that this terrible affliction causes. The only other YA novel I can think of at the moment that explores aging in such a manner is April and the Dragon Lady, but I think this is a topic that is relevant to many teens living with grandparents or near elderly neighbors (all the elders near me love to terrify me at least once a month by forgetting to turn their stoves off). I really enjoyed Phoebe’s transition from reader to sleuth, and couldn’t wait to see where her investigations would lead.