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  • Alisa Williams

Book Review: The Line Tender

The Line Tender by Kate Allen

The Line Tender

Written by Kate Allen

Dutton Books for Young Readers, 2019

Buy Now on Amazon: Hardcover | Kindle

The Line Tender by Kate Allen is one of those books that hooked me from the very first page, and the equal parts humor, heartbreak, and nostalgia held me until the very last.

Set in the 1990s in coastal Massachusetts, The Line Tender is the story of 12-year-old Lucy Everhart, whose marine biologist mother passed away suddenly when Lucy was seven. Since then, Lucy and her father, a rescue diver, have just been trying to survive in a world turned upside down by loss. Her father buries himself in work, while Lucy has her best friend, Fred, to keep her distracted with adventures and their latest project: a field guide of the animals who live in their town of Rockport. Fred, a budding scientist, supplies the descriptions of the animals while Lucy draws them.

One summer day, a great white shark arrives on the shores of Rockport, sparking a renewed interest in Lucy’s late mother’s research into the enigmatic creatures. But just as Fred and Lucy begin their work of researching the great white so they can add it to their field guide, tragedy strikes and Lucy suffers another sudden loss. As Lucy navigates her grief, she rallies those who knew her mother best — her father, her elderly neighbor, and a surly fisherman — to help her finish the research her mother started.

This novel is a heart-wrenching exploration of grief, the physical and emotional reactions we have to it, and the different avenues people use to cope. It is the best book on loss I’ve read for middle grade readers, and quite possibly for any age group.

In addition to being an important book, it is also an all-around beautiful and riveting story. The writing is gorgeous, with vivid descriptions and authentic, endearing characters. I also love that science, animals, and the environment take center stage in this story. And, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the stunning illustrations by artist Xingye Jin that are included throughout the book. Jin did such a superb job of capturing the essence and heart of Lucy’s work on the field guide.

Overall, Kate Allen’s debut novel, The Line Tender, is the best book I’ve read so far this year, and is one I’ll definitely be reading again, and recommending to everyone.

This review originally appeared on NetGalley. I received a free Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) in exchange for my honest review of this title.

Alisa Williams is the managing editor of She blogs at, tweets at @AWWritesStories, and bookstagrams at @AllyWritesStories.

Photo by Alisa Williams.

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