About the Book

Title: The Arm of the Starfish (O’Keefe Family #1)
Published: 1965

Cover Story: Hipsteriffic
BFF Charm: Yay
Swoonworthy Scale: -1
Talky Talk: Classic L’Engle
Bonus Factors: Science!, Spies, Portugal
Relationship Status: True Love

Cover Story: Hipsteriffic

There are some nice, classy covers for this book, but mine’s an awesome old paperback that says “1970s Brooding Teen Romance” and is begging to be cut up, covered in packing tape and turned into a hipster craftypants wallet or purse. I love it, even though Adam (I’m guessing that’s Adam) looks WAY more than sixteen.

The Deal

The aforementioned sixteen-year-old Adam is a genius marine biology student who gets the chance to work with Dr. Calvin O’Keefe (yes, THAT Calvin O’Keefe) for the summer, at his lab on an island of the coast of Portugal. In the airport, he meets a gorgeous blonde who puts the moves on him and warns him of the evils of Dr. O’Keefe (to which I said, “Bish, PUH-LEEZE”). Before he knows it, he’s being questioned by customs in Madrid and rescued by the O’Keefe family friend and my favorite member of the L’Engleverse, Canon Tallis (an Anglican priest-cum-international man of mystery, who looks like Winnie the Pooh), and is plunged into a whole mess of intrigue and kidnapping and theft and killer sharks and has to decide who to trust — the wonderful O’Keefe family (DUH), or the beautiful and rich Kali and her creepy father.

BFF Charm: Yay!

Yay BFF Charm

My enthusiastic yay! goes to more than Adam — I also want to give a bff charm to Meg and Calvin’s daughter Polly, Canon Tallis and (along with a key to my pants heart) Joshua Archer, the young American diplomat living in Lisbon. He can fly planes; he is funny, smart AND dedicated; and he lives in an awesome tiny flat with lots of books.

But back to Adam — while I want to smack him upside the head A LOT, he’s genuine and sweet, and the way he interacts with the O’Keefe children is a little swoony.

Swoonworthy Scale: -1

Sorry, but oh, HELL NO. Kali is a bitch from head to toe — she’s that girl who walks around on her legs and flips her hair and flutters her lashes and expects boys to drop dead at her feet. And OF COURSE THEY DO, because when you’re 16, the universe is CRUEL. All the games she plays with Adam make me want to serve her a vomit sandwich, along with a punch to the throat, then take Adam away and teach him what nice girls can be like.

Adam also gets to know Polly O’Keefe, whom I adore in later books and just want to scream, “Zachary Gray is a twatwaffle! WHY don’t you pick Adam or Simon Bolivar Quentin Phair Renier?!” all through An Acceptable Time, but since Polly is 12 and Adam is destined for Vicky Austin anyway, there’s definitely no swoon.

Talky Talk: Classic L’Engle

It’s kind and innocent, but doesn’t shy away from the sometime suckitude of life that’s needed to balance the ultimate goodness. Plus, it’s full of characters I love and meeting them is like sitting down with an old friend, even if it’s just a glimpse, like with Meg (who’s just “Mrs. O’Keefe” in this book).

Bonus Factor: Science!

A Star Wars robot sits among dirty machine parts

What would a L’Engle book be without some cool speculative science? Calvin’s a marine biologist (and Meg’s a mathematician, although in this book she’s just mother to a billion kids), and his work centers around the regenerative properties of starfish.

Bonus Factor: Spies

Jennifer Garner in a red wig from Alias

I love a good spy story, and Adam gets thrust right into the middle of dangerous double crossing and international espionage.

Bonus Factor: Portugal

Every time I read this book, I’m filled with a longing to visit Portugal, with its medieval history, Moorish architecture and gorgeous beaches.

Relationship Status: True Love

Question: Could you give a Madeleine L’Engle book any other relationship status?

Answer: No. Have we met?

FTC Full Disclosure: I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!). The Arm of the Starfish is available now.

Meghan is an erstwhile librarian in exile from Texas. She loves books, cooking and homey things like knitting and vintage cocktails. Although she’s around books all the time, she doesn’t get to read as much as she’d like.