I don’t like animal books, so when I started reading Edgewater by Courtney Sheinmel I was disheartened to find the setting was a riding camp for rich, polished little snobs. I was thrown into the life of Lorrie Hollander, a trust fund kid who has to worry about whose horse is better than others at the camp. Within minutes of being at the camp, our setting changes dramatically to Lorrie’s home where she has to return through no fault of her own. Through Sheinmel’s impeccable description I could see the former glory of what was left of Edgewater, a mansion overlooking the coast of upstate New York–instantly feeling shame and embarrassment for Lorrie who is not the rich, polished snob I had earlier anticipated.
Upon her homecoming, Lorrie is met by her best friend Lennox who has two moms who also lead a posh lifestyle of pedis/manis and ladies who lunch. As Lennox pulls into the driveway of Edgewater, we learn how difficult it is for Lorrie to live around money and not have any of your own–Lorrie won’t even let her best friend of eight years enter the run down, decrepit mansion. Your heart breaks for this kid who wants to be in charge of her life, but her age is against her.
Lorrie has to figure out what has gone wrong with her trust fund by confronting her Aunt Gigi, only to be told by her sister, Susanna, that Gigi is in her BP (blue periods.) Lorrie is met with unanswered questions, resistance and an unresponsive aunt. She leaves the house to find answers at the bank only to discover all of her accounts are in the red. Discouraged, embarrassed and with only eight bucks in her wallet, she to stops to get gas and meets the famous son of a senator, Charlie Copeland, who invites her to a party at his compound. Ahhhh–the romantic angle. Lorrie doesn’t want someone of Charlie’s status to be involved with her life, her family or her families crumbling estate. She is rude and discouraging to the potential love interest.
After discovering there never was a trust fund, Lorrie has to get a job at Oceanfront, the local horse boarding facility, to help get the funds for her horse, Orion, back from camp as well as pay for her phone bill, electricity for the house and food for her family to eat. Lorrie has to figure out life without the luxury of money, but in doing so, learns more about herself and her family. She discovers her life of luxury has been a life of lies. She also learns she is not alone in assumed identities and the stereo typing placed on people does more harm than good.
I have to say for a person who doesn’t like animal stories, I sat and cried like a girl stood up on prom night when Lorrie has to make sacrifices to help her family. This is a true rite of passage book which needs to go on the classroom library shelves as well as in the library. It isn’t about the horse, as there is little to do about horses, but about a young girl who has to endure her past to help make her who she is to become.
In the classroom:
Freshmen year is a time of change and choice. Most high schools make their students select a path (or track) of education–AP, Tech, etc. Students are encouraged to be college bound and start thinking along those lines the minute they begin the four years of high school. Despite their previous burdens, students are expected to still aspire for more. It is hard to overcome the past. Lorrie chooses to give up her senior year at Hillyer Boarding Academy where she has spent the last three years. She knows what she is cannot be what society dictates. She has to make the greatest of sacrifices and face the reality of who her family is.
As teachers, we have many of these “Lorries” in our classrooms. Each one of them comes with a story–their own pasts. Take the time to have them write a novella of who they are and who they would like to NOT be. Too often we ask them to write about their dreams; this is difficult for students who cannot see behind the walls of yellowing wall paper and rodents who live in their walls (so true for Lorrie and Susanna!) Let your students write about what they don’t want to be. People tend to lean towards the negative, but with this negative writing assignment, you can turn it into a discussion about the glass being half full. If this is NOT what your student wants to be they can soon see what they do aspire to become. (CCSS SL.9-10.4 – Present information, findings, and supporting evidence clearly, concisely, and logically such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and task.)
Edgewater by Courtney Sheinmel (Amulet Books | 9781419716416 | September 8, 2015)