Vicky Austin is at the awful, awkward age of twelve: no longer a kid but certainly not an adult. She is a happy child with a lovely nuturing mother, caring doctor father, smart older brother, pretty younger sister, and sweet younger brother. Although the siblings sometimes fight and get into trouble, they truly love and respect each other.
The day a close family friend dies in a plane crash, along with his copilot, the Austins' world is turned upside down, and not just from sorrow. Ten-year-old Maggy Hamilton, the orphaned daughter of the copilot, has nowhere to live, so Vicky's parents take her in. Vicky knows that she should feel sorry for Maggy, but Maggy doesn't make it easy. She is, quite frankly, a spoiled brat who demands attention and special favors. Vicky isn't sure her family or their house will survive.
Meet the Austins is the first in the Austin Family Chronicles by Madeleine L'Engle. The story is told through the eyes of Vicky, and L'Engle nicely captures the mood and voice of a preteen girl. The Austins are easy to envision, and Maggy is delightfully horrid.
Unfortunately, the book didn't really click with me. Perhaps this middle reader book was just too young for my tastes or perhaps I found the unflappable Austin parents a little too easygoing. It was as if the novel were just out of reach—I almost loved Vicky, I almost wanted to be an Austin, but not really.
If had read Meet the Austins in the 1960s, when I was young, I might have had a different reaction. I think I would have liked Vicky and her family more. But from my grownup, twenty-first-century perspective, the book was a bit too sappy. On the other hand, this story might appeal to youngsters and parents who like a feel-good look into family life.
Madeleine L'Engle died in 2007, but there is website devoted to her work.
Published by Square Fish, 2008 (originally 1960)
Challenges: Shelf Discovery, 100+
Source: Bought (see review policy)