Book Review: Blooming at the Texas Sunrise Motel by Kimberly Willis Holt

I seem to be on a YA kick lately. Maybe I’m trying to recapture my own childhood or maybe I’m looking for a less complex way of looking at the world. Whatever the case, it’s refreshing to read YA novels, refreshing to sink down into a world where adulthood is still foreign, where the days spread out with such hopeful possibility. Sometimes I think that we would all be better people if we read at least on YA novel a month (but that’s just my opinion, you see).

Blooming at the Texas Sunrise Motel, by Kimberly Willis Holt, Henry Holt and Co., 377 pages

Blooming at the Texas Sunrise Motel is well-written and sweet, with a slight tinge of humor. And yet, at times, it felt a bit too nice, with situations resolving too easily, even for YA readers.

Here’s the rundown: Stevie goes to live with her grandfather after her parents are unexpectedly killed. She’s never met this grandfather, who owns a run-down motel in Texas. As she struggles to adapt to this new environment, there are subplots with a cute boy, a skating party, and an elderly teacher with a sleep disorder.

Blooming is a cute story that reads well. Stevie is likable and has an interesting view of the life, and Holt includes enough quirky details to keep it interesting. Yet, some of story felt too unrealistic, too contrived: After Stevie suddenly finds out that she has a grandfather on her mother’s side, she suddenly discovers an aunt and family on her father’s that she’s never met or even heard mentioned. What does this say for her parents’ characters that they were both estranged from their families? And why would they both be keeping secrets from Stevie? This is never explained.

Equally frustrating is that it seems to be Stevie’s responsibility (who just lost her parents, by the way), to bridge the gap with her unknown grandfather. Who, of course, is gruff and aloof at first, until she softens him up. Oh, oh, oh: Isn’t it time we start writing books about girls who put their own feelings first, not everyone else’s?

And yet, after saying all of this, I still got sucked into the story and even became a bit teary-eyed towards the ending. And kudos to Holt for including Horace and Ida, a married couple, both of whom depend upon wheelchairs for mobility. It’s refreshing to see such touches in a YA novel.

While I found Blooming at the Texas Sunrise Motel to be a bit unrealistic at times, with some of the emotions too easily earned, I still enjoyed and recommend this bittersweet story to YA readers.

My rating? 3.5 stars

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Blooming at the Texas Sunrise Motel by Kimberly Willis Holt

  1. I’m from Texas so I clicked on this this actually sounds like it would be a nice read on a beach day. The cover is lovely!


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