Book Review: Our Little World by Karen Winn

Posted May 6, 2022 by WendyW in Book Review, bookblogger / 31 Comments

Our Little World
One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

by Karen Winn
Publication Date May 3, 2022
Published by Penguin
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Genres: Fiction / Coming of Age, Fiction / Family Life / Siblings, Fiction / Women
Pages: 352
Format: ARC

***I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.***

"I was intrigued by Our Little World from the chilling first paragraph. It's a coming-of-age novel complicated by a tragic and untimely death, and it's also a novel about two sisters you will never forget. I fell in love with the confidence of the writing and the colorful nostalgia of the mid-'80s details. Our Little World will transport and transfix you."—Elin Hilderbrand

July 1985. It’s a normal, sweltering New Jersey summer for soon-to-be seventh grader Bee Kocsis. Her thoughts center only on sunny days spent at Deer Chase Lake, on evenings chasing fireflies around her cul-de-sac with the neighborhood kids, and on Max, the boy who just moved in across the street. There's also the burgeoning worry that she'll never be as special as her younger sister, Audrina, who seems to effortlessly dazzle wherever she goes. 

But when Max’s little sister, Sally, goes missing at the lake, Bee’s long-held illusion of stability is shattered in an instant. As the families in her close-knit community turn inward, suspicious and protective, things in Bee’s own home become increasingly strained, most of all with Audrina, when a shameful secret surfaces. With everything changed, Bee and Audrina’s already-fraught sisterhood is pushed to the limit as they grow up—and apart—in the wake of an innocence lost too soon. 
Perfect for readers of Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You, Our Little World is a powerful and lyrical coming-of-age story that examines the complicated bond of sisterhood, the corrosive power of envy, and how the traumas of our youths can shape our identities for a lifetime.

Our Little World by Karen Winn is both a nostalgic look back at the mid-80s and a fascinating mystery.  This coming-of-age novel is set in the mid-’80s in a cul de sac in a small town in New Jersey.  The story is about the loss of innocence, sisters, and growing up.  All this is written by a debut author! 

Bee Kocsis is just about to start seventh grade when a new family moves in across the street in their cul de sac in their small-town New Jersey.  Max Baxter is close to Bee’s age and Sally Baxter is only three years old and they become friends with Bee and her younger sister Audrina.  Bee and Audrina are only a year apart, and they are best friends and worst enemies at the same time.  Bee is convinced that her sister Audrina is much prettier and more social than Bee, and this causes some jealousy between the sisters. 

Their idyllic life on the cul de sac is shattered when little Sally goes missing at the Deer Chase Lake on a hot summer day.  Bee, Audrina, and Max are all at the lake when she goes missing, but nobody knows what happened to Sally.  Bee’s relationship with her sister changes, as does the relationships of the adults on the cul de sac as the investigation into Sally’s disappearance continues.  

Our Little World is full of nostalgia, mystery, angst, and emotions.  I read this in one sitting, as I couldn’t wait to see what happened to Sally, and I enjoyed the writing so much.  I was a young woman in the mid-80s and I found this book to be very true to life in the mid-80s.  The descriptions of the cul de sac, the beach at the lake, and school felt very realistic and they brought back memories of my own childhood.  

I liked that the mystery of Sally’s disappearance is completely told through the eyes of Bee, and the author did an excellent job of telling the story through an adolescent’s eyes and not that of an adult.  The relationship between Bee and Audrina is so authentic.  They are best friends one minute and sworn enemies the next, but there is always their underlying love for each other.  

I highly recommend Our Little World by Karen Winn to anyone who enjoys historical fiction with a bit of mystery.  I received a complimentary copy of this book.  The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

About Karen Winn

Karen Winn received her MFA from Fairleigh Dickinson University. She also holds a doctoral degree in nursing. Born and raised in New Jersey, Karen now lives in Boston with her husband and two children. Our Little World is her first novel.

31 responses to “Book Review: Our Little World by Karen Winn

    • Oh wow! You would enjoy it, as it’s well researched and has so many little details of the time period.

  1. This one sounds so intriguing. I was born in the late 70s, so I grew up in the 80s and 90s and I’m often nostalgic for those decades.

    • It was very good at making me remember those times as it had a lot of little details about that time period.

  2. I was a young teen in the mid 1980s, so the setting alone of this one makes me want to read it. 🙂

  3. Good review and it sounds like an interesting book, but it brought up a question for me. You refer to it as historical fiction. I wonder when a piece of fiction becomes “historical.” I think of WWII and earlier as “historical,” but I have no basis for that. Does it depend on the reader’s age as to how they view a work or is there a set number of years for the setting that determines the designation? 🤔

    • I used the term Historical Fiction because that’s what Goodreads has it listed as. But, you’re right, it seems too recent to be historical fiction, so perhaps that’s not a great genre to list it. Thanks!

  4. Rosie

    Gosh, the 80s; seems like yesterday but it is actually much further back isn’t it?