The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 01 Oct 2019

Member Reviews

Hartley Staples, near-graduate of middle school, is grappling with the fact that his older brother has run away from home, when he finds a handmade postcard that fascinates him. And soon he spots another.

Despite his losing interest in pretty much everything since Jackson ran away, Hartley finds himself searching for cards in his small town at every opportunity, ignoring other responsibilities, namely choosing a topic for his final project. Who is G.O. and why are they scattering cards about the town?- Goodreads

I was surprised with how much I liked this book. It is a simple read that packs a lot of punch. 

Hartley is going through the motions since his brother left. But the thing about it is, he doesn't exactly talk about his emotions per say. He states the obvious. This is not to say that he did not care for his brother. As I stated before, Hartley is going through the motions but they are stubble. For instance, losing interest in everything, feeling left out by his family and dealing with a fairly mean sister. Hartley is going through it but he doesn't exactly say that he is feeling some type of way about what is happening with his family. The way he describes it is that he is stating the obvious. Although some emotions come out, it isn't until the end of the book that he really lets somethings crack. 

I actually like the fact that this book wasn't dripping in emotion. Not every child deals with grief emotionally or even acting out. It is refreshing to see. How Gretchen Oyster comes into play is that she proves Hartley something different without even realizing that she is doing anything. 

See the author introduces Gretchen Oyster through the cards and then gives her a voice. Her voice is brief but just like Hartley, she is going through the motions too but completely different from Hartely, Did I want more of her? Nope. This book isn't about her; due to what she was going through, she became a catalyst for Hartely and his story. Gretchen plays an important role in this story but as a reader, you need to understand she isn't the story. 

Moving forward, the author could have went really deep with this book. There are a lot of questions that could have been answered. However, due to the way it was written, the reader finishes this book without wanting those questions to be answered. I know that this may sound a little weird but hear me out. The questions that arise within this novel do get answered b but it isn't for the reader to see.

Because this book is told through a middle schooler, there are things, in real life, that a child would not know. This book stays true to that. Hartley isn't that child that has to know everything; he just needs to have his questions answered and that is perfectly okay. It makes the book much more realistic and it gives it heart. 

This book has a lot of heart and care and as a reader there is an appreciation that goes directly to the author. The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster is a well written book . Its a slow read that is not only a great filler in between larger reads but it keeps your attention. 

Overall, this is something that should be on your radar. 

3.5 Pickles
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It was such a pleasure to dive into Cary Fagan’ new middle grade story The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster.  I have always loved Cary Fagan’s writing and was especially drawn to the design of this story first, curious how John Martz and Cary Fagan together created such an interesting cover design along with the illustrations inside.   As a young person I loved to make collages.  I feel like making collages of all the things you love were the 90s version of the vision board.  There is something so relatable to cutting out various pictures and combining them into beautiful art as Gretchen Oyster does in the story.

Initially captivated by the voice in the story, I grew very fond of Hartley Staplesad I read this lovely story.  It is an easy read in the sense that it flows so beautifully from one moment to the next.  I believe Cary Fagan captures the true voice of an eighth grade person and all of the uncertainties of being at the end of the tween years, almost in high school but not quite, almost feeling grown up but not quite. Hartley’s older brother Jackson has run away from home and has been gone for several months.  It’s taken a toll on all of Hartley’s relationships: his relationship with his family, with his friends, with school but Hartley is strong and contemplative.  When he finds a card with a picture and a message on it he is intrigued and makes it his mission to collect every card in the set not really understanding the drive behind the desire.  We then meet the artist, Gretchen Oyster, who speaks in a very different voice and is facing her own set of difficulties and hard knocks.  I love the choice by designer John Martz to change the font to reflect the character whose story is being told, it helps to visually distinguish who is the focus and to help the reader follow along in an easy way.

Cary Fagan does an impeccable job of bringing into focus some harsh realities faced by youth today such as mental health and bullying in such a way that is far from preachy but supportive and honest.  Through this story tweens will find comfort in knowing even if they think the adults in their lives have too much on their plates they are always available to help navigate and advocate for them
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I liked this well enough, but in some ways, it did fall a little flat for me.  I liked the writing style, and was pulled in, but do not feel totally satisfied by it.
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This is a beautifully written middlegrade about a boy searching for answers. Why did his brother go missing? Where did his brother go? Who is making these postcards? 

This is a quick and easy read. I was fully engaged right from the start and loved the added reading pleasure this book has been given via the addition of pictures of the postcards.

The cover is beautiful and I look forward to seeing a finished copy.

The only criticism I would have for this story is that we never learn why Jackson disappeared. I would have loved the story to have been a little longer so that we could learn why. It made the ending feel rushed and incomplete.

I will be recommending that we stock this in our shop when released.
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I received an arc of this book from netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

What I liked:
-This was a pretty quick story, so I didn't lose interest.
-Cool cover!
-It had an air of mystery to it, but it wasn't really ''a mystery'' book.

Overall, it was a pretty good story, but not one I would read again.
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The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster is a quirky story about families and friendship. It was not what I was expecting as I started reading but it turned into a sweet message about searching  - searching for answers to family problems, searching for friendships both old and new and searching to be understood. The story centers around a boy, Hartley who is trying to understand why his older brother has run away and the impact it is having on his family. He is struggling to focus on anything around him but when little postcards of inspiration start showing up along his path he sets out on a mission to discover where they are coming from and who G.O. is. The story moves along at a quick pace and my only complaint is that it came to an end too soon. I guess that is a good thing if a story leaves you wanting more. I read and reviewed an ARC courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher, all opinions are my own. Thank you to NewGalley for sharing this one with me!
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A short and sweet book aimed at the young reader, The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster is the story of Hartley Staples, a young man about to graduate from Middle School. He should be enjoying the last few weeks of school, and spending time with family and friends but all he can think about is his older brother. Jackson has run away from home, and ever since his family has fallen apart, leaving Hartley to pretty much fend for himself. When the time comes to pick a subject for one last big school project, he really can't think of anything that he is passionate about. When he finds a postcard with a mysterious message signed with only the initials G.O. his curiosity is piqued, and as time goes on and more cards turn up in the most unexpected of places , Hartley finds himself trying to track down the mysterious artist. 
I really liked the inclusion of the collage style art pieces created by "G.O." in the book, they were beautifully created and though simple , they were also thought provoking. Hartley is a great character, and I really liked the brief impressions we got of Gretchen too. It was interesting to see the problems both young people were struggling with, and how they seemed to help each other despite not even meeting for most of the book.
I read and reviewed an ARC courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher, all opinions are my own.
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I really enjoyed this book. While it was a very quick read, it said what it needed to. I loved how they included pictures of the works in the book as it gives it a whole new level. Both the characters of Hartley and Gretchen we very interesting and I loved how much of an impact they had on each 0thers lives with having such little contact with each other. The author made me think about how everyone has their own story and their own problems. 
I'd recommend this book to so many people and libraries and parents because I feel it's such a unique story that many people can take something from. This book isn't that challenging in its language and perfect so many different readers.
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