You’re probably asking yourself why, after despising every book of hers I’ve re-read, I’m doing ANOTHER Caroline B. Cooney re-read. It’s because I’m desperate to find one gem I will still love as an adult from the author I loved as a kid.
I don’t recall too much about this one…I think a girl falls in love with a weird new boy, The Stranger, at school and it turns out he’s supernatural. I know, totally Twilight. Really praying the girl in this one isn’t The Worst like Annie in the Time Traveler Quartet and everyone in Twins. I loved the romance in this and if I remember correctly, it made me cry a lot. Bring on the tears!
Childhood Rating: 5 out of 5 non-Edward Cullen supernatural boyfriends
Nicoletta Storms received the blow of her life. She’s been kicked off the Madrigal Singers to make way for a new girl, Anne Marie. Nicoletta and all of her friends are beside themselves at this new development because the Madrigal Singers are best friends and do everything together. Nicoletta decides to take Art Appreciation in place of Madrigals and notices a mysterious boy she’s never seen before. After school, she learns her friends’ allegiance to her has shifted since they discovered Anne Marie’s amazing voice. Distraught at her social circle’s quick about-face, Nicoletta follows Mysterious Boy when she sees him walking home. As he turns down a dead end, he notices he’s being followed. Nicoletta introduces herself and tells him how she lost all her friends, as if this is pertinent information when introducing yourself to a stranger. He offers to listen to her story while he walks her back down the street and introduces himself as Jethro. Jethro’s reserved demeanor intrigues Nicoletta and she invites him to have lunch with her at school the next day.
Nicoletta’s attraction to Jethro makes her think twice when Christo, the hot male member of the Madrigals, asks her to an upcoming dance. In her crazy obsessive heart she wants to be with Jethro despite only knowing him for roughly 23 hours, but she accepts the dance invitation because Christo is ~*~*ChRiStO**~*~ . This backfires during lunch when Jethro, about to sit with Nicoletta, turns and leaves as Christo pulls her away. Jethro doesn’t show up to Art Appreciation afterwards. Worried about his disappearance, Nicoletta heads to the dead end where Jethro told her he takes a shortcut home from school. At the end of the street is a wooded patch of rocky land. A footpath brings her down to an area with lakes and then stops dead. The calm silence becomes disconcerting as Nicoletta feels like she’s being watched, and stumbles upon a cave in her nervousness. When she walks into the cave, she feels the earth start to move, almost as if it’s trying to pull her deeper into the cave. She screams for Jethro in her panicked state only to be rescued by a creature made of sand and leaves who asks her to promise that she’ll never return to the cave.
Despite her promise, Nicoletta can’t stop thinking about the cave and how much she wants to return. Jethro is still on her mind as well, and she’s happy to see him back in class. She walks back to the dead end with him after school, telling him the story of her supernatural experience in the woods. Jethro repeats the sand monster’s advice to avoid the cave. As Jethro and Nicoletta are having a touching, romantic moment until Christo swings by and ruins it. Nicoletta introduces the boys and Christo later notices he has sand on his hand from shaking hands with Jethro…DUN DUN DUNNNNNNNNN.
In spite of the warnings, Nicoletta continues stupidly traipse about the woods looking for Jethro and the creature. She’s drawn to quiet, sensitive Jethro who’s always shocked by Nicoletta’s feelings for him, and starts to pull away from popular, outgoing Christo. The more she gets to know Jethro, the more she sees his connection to the cave creature. In the end, Nicoletta has a much more difficult choice to make than choosing between the two boys.
The Stranger is a typical Cooney romance. A girl with a frilly name falls instantly in love with a mysterious boy. For some reason, I really liked this book despite the trite plot and unrealistic love story. Something about Nicoletta becoming interested in an unconventional guy gives me a soft spot for this story. Jethro is shy, sweet, protective, and earnest. He’s astounded by Nicoletta’s interest in him and is desperate to keep her safe. The love he has for her is pure, and the same is true of Nicoletta’s love for Jethro. Christo, who she’s always had a crush on, has asked her out at a time when she’s at her lowest, but she’s still pulled towards Jethro. I love stories like that, no matter how childish and wish-fulfilling they might be. These stories reiterate the importance of looking beyond a person’s exterior to see the value in their personality. Sometimes the monster isn’t the supernatural creature made out of cave goo, sometimes it’s the boy or girl next door.
Adulthood Rating: 4 out of 5 romantic cave monsters