Hilarious, witty, and endearing, One Year in Coal Harbor by Polly Horvath is the sequel to Everything on a Waffle.
Horvath’s middle school novel is set in an ocean-side town in British Colombia, and chronicles a year in the life of the main character, 12 year old Primrose. She keeps herself busy by being matchmaker for Uncle Jack and Miss Bowzer; friend to Ked the new foster kid; and author of a new cookbook to help raise money for the Fisherman’s Aid, meanwhile trying to lead the life of an ordinary 12 year old.
But Primrose isn’t an ordinary 12 year old. Her perceptions and insights are deep and instinctive. We see her reaching out instinctively to befriend Ked the new foster kid because, once a foster child, she could identify with Ked’s loneliness and awkwardness toward his new family, school, and town. It caused Primrose to reflect on her time when her parents were lost at sea, and therefore she reached out to Ked in empathy. Primrose’s perception on love and romance is also quite insightful. Her observations of the romance and courtship between her Uncle, Jack and Miss Bowser were for the most part on point. Her hard work to get the two together was quite hilarious and yet the tactics used, though sometimes juvenile, however, showed she had much sensitivity to the matter.
The book is written as a first person narrative, in a distinctive voice of the ‘continuous chatter’ of the typical 12 year old. The narrative is an easy read, and the narrator Primrose goes in depth describing the characters, the events, and circumstances in a comfortable, story-telling like manner. Of course, the inclusion of a recipe or two at the end of each chapter is great, and they are informally written in the same narrative as the rest of the book.
An absolute favorite scene in the book is the town hall meeting. Horvath successfully captures the hilarity, confusion, anger, and frustration of the atmosphere at the town hall meeting, and she pulled all these elements into an explosive and dramatic, yet hilarious scene told honestly and without judgment from a juvenile’s perspective.
One Year in Coal Harbor is beautifully written and can be appreciated for its lessons and insights.