Watch Over Me is quiet – which is exactly what I said about Nina LaCour’s book We Are Okay In this award winning YA novel, LaCour tells the story of eighteen-year-old Mila who has recently aged out of the foster care system, but is offered the opportunity to remake her life as an intern at a farm in Northern California. She’s told
“Quite a few people have turned it down. And some people haven’t known what they were getting into and it hasn’t worked out. You need to want it. It’s a farm. It’s in the middle of nowhere – to one side is the ocean and in every other direction is nothing but rocky hills and open land. It’s almost always foggy and cold and there’s no cell service and no town to shop in or meet people…”
The farm is owned by Terry and Julia, an older couple who have fostered dozens of young people including Nick Bancroft, a former resident who now interviews prospective residents and who tells her that the farm “becomes home if you let it.”
It sounds sort of perfect to Mila, though, a place to take a breath and think about what might happen next. She will be teaching a nine-year-old with a traumatic past and helping out with the farm’s booth at the local farmer’s market.
Once at the farm, she meets her fellow interns, Billy and Liz, and her new student, Lee, with whom she forms an immediate bond. Mila finds comfort in the farm’s structure and in Terry and Julia, who are patient and kind. There is a kind of magic in working hard and being with these people.
But there are also ghosts – figurative and literal.
The ghost hovered in place on the moonlit field. It lifted its arms to the sky and spun in a slow circle. A girl, I thought, by the way she moved. And, in spite of myself, I was mesmerized.
This is not the first ghost Mila has ever seen, and it’s not the only ghost on the property. But Watch Over Me isn’t a ghost story, per se. It is a story about one girl’s path to healing, the memories which haunt her, and finding a place to belong in the world. It’s a beautifully written book and, strangely, a page-turner, too. (Not that those two things are mutually exclusive.) And that cover!