Library Journal Review
Celestia is a daughter of society's upper crust. Peter is a seasonal worker at a resort on Lake Conemaugh-a manmade reservoir perched high above Johnstown, PA-where Celestia's family spends their summers. Their secret love nearly ends in tragedy when the dam holding the reservoir breaks, killing over 2200 people. Why It Is for Us: Hurricane Katrina and Deep Water Horizon were not the first preventable disasters in our nation's history. At the time of the Johnstown tragedy, Americans were shocked by the hubris of big-money financiers whose vacation oasis became the deadly force behind the worst flood in the 19th century.-Angelina Benedetti, "35 Going on 13," BookSmack! 7/15/2010 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
Threads of romance and class run through this striking novel in verse, set against the 1889 Johnstown flood in Pennsylvania. Debut author Richards alternates among several teenagers and adults whose lives intersect before, during, and after the disaster. In the most prominent story line, 16-year-old Celestia ("if I am not the fun-loving beauty,/ then I must be the serious one") and her family enjoy peaceful summers at the Lake Conemaugh resort until her spirited older sister becomes pregnant and Celestia falls in love with a hired hand, enraging their parents. Maura's narrative focuses on her home life-she has three children by age 17 ("How can a house full of babies feel empty?")-and her determination as the flood hits. And Kate's story follows her arduous journey to become a nurse after the death of her first love, as well as her role in the rescue when typhoid breaks out. Richards builds strong characters with few words and artfully interweaves the lives of these independent thinkers. Celestia's taboo relationship feels dramatic and sweeping, while the various minute-by-minute accounts during the flood are painful and immediate. Ages 12-up. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Booklist Review
This debut novel in verse uses the 1889 Johnstown flood to explore class divisions and social mores in a moving portrait of four fictional families. Celestia's nouveau riche family would like her to marry well and advance the family's reputation with a pedigreed husband, but she has fallen in love with Peter, a hired hand at the resort hotel. In Johnstown proper lives Maura, a young woman with four small children and a loving husband. On a train to Johnston on the day of the flood is Kate, a widowed nurse who lost her beloved husband and stifles her own emotions by caring for others. The stories intersect in small but beautifully crafted ways. As in Karen Hesse's Out of the Dust (1997), Richards uses spare, clear language to both advance the story and create memorable characters. Even before the kiss / my heart is beating so hard / that it scarcely leaves room for air. Richards provides a time line and bibliography for readers intrigued by the flood. Those who loved the movie Titanic will be drawn to this intensely romantic and polished story.--Carton, Debbie Copyright 2010 Booklist