Bett Devlin: 12yo. Loves animals + being outside + adventures. Is a daredevil + proud of it. Lives in California with her dad near the ocean (which is AWESOME, by the way!!)
Avery Bloom: Twelve years old. Enjoys reading, writing, and learning medical facts. Has some "excessive worries" which really aren't that unreasonable and include drowning, getting a disease, and the fire hazard posed by paper lampshades which are too close to the light bulb. Lives in New York City with her papa.
Both Bett and Avery are quite happy with their lives just the way they are. So when they find out their dads are dating, they're both horrified--both are just fine with staying the center of their dads' lives, thank you very much. But their dads have other (inexplicable) plans, and send them both to a camp in Michigan called CIGI ("Challenge Influence Guide Inspire") while they go on a trip to China to get to know each other better. (Yup, you read that right: CHINA.) They think it'll be a wonderful way for Bett and Avery to get to know each other and become friends--in fact, they might soon become family.
In other words, things are getting desperate.
Bett and Avery might seem like opposites, but they do have one very important thing in common: neither has ANY intention of becoming friends (and DEFINITELY not sisters). United by a shared determination to never see each other again, they plot ways to get their dads to break up and forget about each other. But things quickly get far more complicated than they were expecting, and they realize they'll need some very clever plots indeed to get everything to work out the way they want them to....
When I started the first few pages of To Night Owl From Dogfish, I was immediately hooked, but was expecting a light, fast read about two girls who are determined to hate each other, yet, over the course of one fateful summer, become best friends--a fun plotline, but not a particularly new one. However, that's only the very beginning--it's a delight to see the layers and twists unfold, so I haven't gone into more detail in my review, but suffice to say that every time a plotline began to feel like something I'd seen before, a twist (often a hilarious new take on an old cliché) would take the story in a new, unexpected direction, with surprises and mishaps until the very end. The authors manage to combine a handful of classic themes into a story that is both original and comforting, with two quirky, refreshing main characters (Bett and Avery sometimes remind me of Aru and Mini) who feel like real twelve-year-olds--stubborn, passionate, flawed, caring, and (eventually) inseparable. Although Bett and Avery aren't biological sisters, I've categorized this book under the "Sisters" category on the blog, a decision which I firmly stand by (read it and you'll understand!)
The whole cast is deftly drawn and appealing, and it's a joy to watch as the characters overlap, argue, plot, and connect to form a quirky, sprawling family that none of them were expecting. The story is written through emails, and while I don't always enjoy epistolary stories, this one was cleverly done and highly engaging, and added an extra layer of uniqueness. Ultimately, To Night Owl From Dogfish is an ode to big, messy, wonderful families--biological and not--and I would highly recommend this fresh, winsome, and highly amusing tale to readers ages nine and up.