Book Reviews, YA Book Club for Writers

Book Club Review: Ebb & Flow by Heather Smith

One summer,
after a long plane ride
and a rotten bad year
I went to Grandma Jo’s.
It was my mother’s idea.
Jett, what you need is a change of scenery.
I think she needed a change of scenery, too.
One without me.
Because that rotten bad year?
That was my fault.

Thus begins the poignant story, told in free verse, of eleven-year-old Jett. Last year, Jett and his mother had moved to a new town for a fresh start after his father went to jail. But Jett soon learned that fresh starts aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. When he befriended a boy with a difficult home life, Jett found himself in a cycle of bad decisions that culminated in the betrayal of a friend – a shameful secret he still hasn’t forgiven himself for. Will a summer spent with his unconventional grandmother help Jett find his way to redemption?

Writing in artfully crafted free-verse vignettes, Heather T. Smith uses a deceptively simple style to tell a powerful and emotionally charged story. The engaging narrative and the mystery of Jett’s secret keep the pages turning and will appeal to both reluctant and avid readers.

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Our thoughts about this book:

Well, first of all, congratulations to Heather Smith for winning the top prize for the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award! We felt so timely with our book pick for October as this announcement came out right before our book club meeting.

Did we agree that this should be an award winner? Absolutely!

It was interesting to see how we all approached getting our copy of this book based on the perception that it was written in verse. Some of us were a bit leery so purchased digital or got a library copy, where as another was so excited about it being in free-verse, that they excitedly purchased the hardcover.  Part of our discussion involved how being a member of a book club, where each member has the opportunity to pick a book, opens up our readership.

We were all drawn into Jett’s story and I even wished I’d purchased the paper copy, I’ll likely do so when it comes out in paperback. One member noted how this is a book she could leave on her coffee table and, for months, enjoy opening it to a random page and reading the poem written there.

Some of the verses stand alone, whereas others do not, but all combine into a cohevsive character-driven story, complete with well-woven subplots and carries an element of mystery to the reveal near the end.

We each expressed different combinations of characters we liked or didn’t like which I found quite interesting. Telling me there’s something for everyone in this book.

Our discussions around aspects of this story lead us to many different subject areas as we compared and contrasted to our personal lives or current news events. Which was another thing we found interesting about the book club dynamic – “look where our conversations take us.”

We also kept coming back to the question of how Heather Smith may have written this story. Was it originally written in verse form? Did she write the verses in order or did they well-up out of her randomly and then she put them in order? A quick Google search only revealed award announcements and reviews. . . [Heather, if you happen to read this (!), please let us know!]

Our best writing take-away from reading a novel written in free-verse form was the conciseness of the wording. There is no room for extra verbiage in poetry. To be able to fully develop characters, setting, subplots and create a believable well-connected story arc is truly a mastery. “[This story] was deep, and I appreciate that depth.” ~ book club member.

Heather Smith wrote an exceptional story and any and all awards that she wins are well-deserved. We recommend this book.


This is an unsolicited review. I purchased my Kindle copy from

  • Hardcover: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Kids Can Press (April 3 2018)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1771388382

5 thoughts on “Book Club Review: Ebb & Flow by Heather Smith”

  1. Hi! I was alerted to this post on Twitter and I’m so glad I checked it out! What a great discussion you’ve had about Ebb & Flow. I feel as though I was a fly on the wall! To answer your question, Ebb & Flow began as a picture book. Other than a boy finding a piece of a sea glass, I wasn’t exactly sure what the story was going to be. It wasn’t long before more ideas came and the story exploded. I thought, “This is not a picture book anymore!” I did like the concise and poetic way I had been writing it so continued on until it morphed into a verse novel! All the poems were written chronologically from start to finish.
    Thanks so much for reading and discussing this book. If you have any other questions, just ask!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow! Heather, thank you so much for reading my blog post and responding to our questions. What an honour!

      It’s fascinating isn’t it, how our stories change over time. Ebb & Flow, starting as a picture book, would never have crossed our minds. 🙂

      Congratulations, again on your big win!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Having participated in last Sunday’s book discussion, I appreciate learning a bit about how the story morphed into its final award-winning from. Thanks for this!

    Liked by 1 person

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