The water balloon blitz was just a joke when it started out in second grade. Marley found the water balloons early on a hot spring day. She decided to fill them and hide them to surprise her best friends, Jane and Leah, with an attack during their Monopoly game later in the day. Their version of Monopoly was wholly unique: the best friends had made up crazy actions to perform when you land on a square or draw a card. It made for a much more exciting time (for instance, if you landed on Marvin Gardens the other players had to quickly make up a new hairstyle for you). Marley blitzed them with the water balloons and it was one of the best moments and most fun the girls ever had. And so began a full-on blitz war: every summer one of them blitzed the other two and were awarded points for how daring and how surprising the attack was. That was during the height of their friendship, but now the three friends are in 7th grade and, as often happens, things have changed. It’s the summer before 8th grade and the girls haven't blitzed each other in a couple of years. Their lives have just gotten too busy. Marley's parents are divorcing and she is spending the summer at her dad's new place, unwillingly babysitting the most hyperactive twin 5-year-olds in existence. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Jane and Leah are doing an intensive acting camp together with high-schoolers and are too busy to hang out or even return Marley’s phone calls. Marley's life has done a complete 180 –she feels stretched as thin as a too-filled water balloon.. Marley wishes she could go back to childhood when everything was simple and she, Jane and Leah understood each other, were all each other needed, blitzing and laughing the days away. The only bright light of her summer is Jack, the baseball-loving neighbor at her dad's house with the brightest blue eyes. As her friends become more and more distant, she becomes more desperate to hold on to the old days. She decides to bring the water balloon blitzing back, but makes a grave mistake when she blitzes everyone (including high school boys) at Jane's first boy-girl, no-adult 4th of July party. Jane and Leah are furious and officially cut her out of their lives. They are more interested in boys and parties than games of monopoly; they even say she is the one who has not been a good friend since she has been so depressed about her parents. They actually tell her to get over it! Marley has a long summer with lots to learn about friendship (who your true friends are), romance (especially with a cute neighbor who is there for you when you need him), and family (in whatever form that may be).
Marley can be hard to like at times but it is easy to identify with her and her struggles with family and friends. The most excruciating aspect of the book is how awful her "best" friends are. They turn on her and blame her for everything without caring about her or what a difficult time she may be having. Marley comes to realize that you can't stay friends with people who are not true friends just because you’re scared to be alone. It takes time but she (and you as the reader) will come to realize that things are not always as bad as them seem and changes can make life better. If you like dramatic coming-of-age stories with some romance mixed in, then check out Water Balloon by Audrey Vernick. Review by Lizzy Healy