After her parents separate, a Pennsylvania preteen struggles to accept the new normal.
Liberty, 12, loves creating star maps and connecting stars in new patterns, forming new constellations (rendered by Goffi). After their dad moves out, she and her anxious little sister, Jilly, 9, don’t see him for months. Their mother avoids answering questions. Lib abandons her star maps; the promise and possibilities they represented no longer feel real. Peer relationships suffer, too. Former friend Leah “excommunicates” her. Finn, offspring of another rocky marriage, ignores her. Being shunned isn’t all bad; Lib enjoys eating lunch with a fellow outcast, Iranian American Malik (other characters default to white). Reconnecting with Dad, the girls are upset to learn he’s dating. Desperate to restore her family, Lib bargains with the stars and meteorite she lugged home, utilizing magical thinking to bring about Dad’s return. Counseling helps, too. Lib may not be clinically depressed like Dad, but what ails her is equally huge. “We co-own a divorce. Split four ways,” she tells him. “It’s ours.” Lib’s precise, present-tense narration sensitively reveals how divorce changes each family member, not just their relationships. It’s a painful truth, but for Lib, sharing that hard-won insight is also empowering. Acclaimed as a YA novelist (Dig, 2019, etc.), King pens a middle-grade book that will especially resonate with readers confronting or affected by family turmoil.
Quietly compelling. (author’s note, resources) (Fiction. 8-12)