The voice! The main character is nearly sixteen, but her voice skews a bit younger, which is perfect for middle grade readers. She's funny, witty, smart, and observant. In fact, her voice combined with the mystery in the plot reminded me of a more modern Nancy Drew.
I also enjoyed the setting, and the many details that bring it to life. Most of this is through Eliza's experiences with the geological finds she's illustrating. This is a book that could be used to educate middle grade readers about Orcas Island and the various geological finds described in the book while still entertaining them with the humor, slight mystery, and sweet romance.
What Left Me Wanting More:
Honestly, this book confused me at first. Like so many readers, I make snap judgments about a book by its cover, and this book's cover says "I'm from 1974." The illustrations inside, for the most part, felt old-fashioned as well. Nothing about the book's presentation says "funny, mysterious, adventurous middle grade book" but in truth, that's what readers will find inside the pages. I feel like this book has an identity crisis on its hands because modern readers are looking for bold, beautiful covers and illustrations, and this book is in danger of being passed up in favor of others whose packaging will draw readers in. That would be a shame because this is a book worth reading.
Eliza's Journal is funny, fast-paced, and contains just the right amount of mystery, science, and romance to capture a discerning middle grade reader. There is some light profanity in case readers are sensitive to that. Despite the lack of an engaging cover, I do hope readers find their way to this book!