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Ebb & Flow by Heather T Smith

Over a summer of love and struggle, one young boy finds the courage to forgive himself.

Told through a series of picturesque free-verse vignettes, Ebb & Flow is the story of Jett, a young boy going through some tough times. After a singularly bad year, full of poor choices and disaster, Jett is sent to live with his grandmother for the summer. Over the course of the summer, Jett begins to regain the decency he had buried under those choices. He slowly shares his story with Grandma Jo. Through it, we learn not only Jett’s past, but that of Junior and Alf.

I started with mixed feelings about Jett. He’s a young kid to whom something devastating has obviously happened. The reader is teased with the ‘rotten bad year’ through the book, but its some time before we learn details. But he’s still making bad choices, even at Grandma Jo’s. How he thought poorly of Nelly, and what he did to her. He feels bad about it, though. Jett’s clearly got a conscious, and he’s been through a great deal. It’s really no wonder he’s acting out at times. He’d gotten mixed up with a kid named Junior, who corrupted his thinking. Jett wanted a friend, and did what he had to in order to keep Junior as a friend.

Then Alf shows up. Alf is a child trapped in a man’s body. He is sweet, gentle, and naive. He also happens to be Junior’s uncle, whom Junior loathes. He thinks Alf got something rightly Junior’s, from his ma. One unfortunate day Junior decides to take it ‘back’, and things go horribly wrong. Junior, though? He has plenty to shape his behaviour in unsavoury ways. He was being abused, and just wanted free.

This hit home on a very personal level. My brother fell in with a bad crowd, and went from being sweet and open-minded, influenced by me and our grandmother to be tolerant of those different, to being influenced by this crowd of hoodlums. His behaviour changed for the worst.

Jett realises his behaviour has changed and that awareness is positive. It means he can gain back what he lost. First he must forgive himself though, and that’s hard. Ebb & Flow was a fascinating exploration of psychology, personality development, emotional maturity, and forgiveness.



That’s the thing

about being someone new–

once you kill your old self

and bury it deep underground

it’ll never come back,


no matter how hard you dig.’

*Diseased, Ebb & Flow



It spent years

caught in the ocean waves.

It was tossed around

and beaten down,

until finally

it washed up on shore.

Now look at it–

what was once a piece

of broken glass

is now something better–

it’s a gem.


Even after all that battering?


Grandma smiled.

Because of all that battering.

*All That Battering, Ebb & Flow


I felt the unusual format, telling the story through one-shot vignette poems, made it more engaging. These bite-sized morsels were worse than potato chips! I’d say I was only going to read two or three, then get work done, but they drew me forward, eager for the next. This is the power of poetry, to capture the attention in ways pure prose can’t.

This is the perfect gift for poetry lovers, or as a classroom tool for writing, storytelling, or child development.

***Many thanks to Netgalley and Kids Can Press for providing an egalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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