I somehow missed this book when I was growing up. I generally skipped directly from kiddie lit to adult books without ever reading through the offerings available for teens although I do still have my old, yellowed copy of Oneal's The Language of Goldfish so she must have been on my radar at some point.
This book is a symphony of color and image, so viscerally visual that Oneal's descriptions easily inhabit the reader's mind's eye. And this is apropos in a book where main character Kate, a high school senior, is the daughter of a famous painter. She used to paint herself but has given it up in an effort to find something that is truly her own: in her case, language and words. Kate has a complicated relationship with her father, thinking that everything in their family is designed to cater to his painting muse and genius. She in antogonistic about what she sees as his dominance so when a graduate student arrives to catalog his paintings for a retrospective, she expects her father to overwhelm and diminish this latest visitor to their home.
But Ian is easy going and charming, recognizing and admiring Marcus Brewer's greatness but not seeming the lesser for this recognition. And as the summer progresses and Kate recovers from the bout of mono that had derailed her original summer plans, she starts to see life, her father, the future, and even her own long dormant talent at painting in a different light thanks to Ian's outlook. A summer where Kate learns about love and disappointment and where she looks beneath the surface of her father, like looking at the way an artist creates the play of light over an image on canvas, the story of Kate's growing up is beautifully rendered.
Impressive given the age of the novel, this book is not dated in any way. It is not long and certainly doesn't focus on the expected tropes of the YA genre but it is timeless and well done. Kate is realistic as is her attitude. I found her frustrating in the beginning, certain that she knew the way that things should be and the ways in which her parents were so wrong, stubborn in her convictions, and unmoved by others' assertions that she doesn't necessarily have the only perspective on things. But her gradual opening up to a bigger reality than she had accounted for showed a young woman coming into her own and becoming an adult. YA fans would do well to revisit this book and even those who missed it the first time around will appreciate it.