Shinoda’s first novel introduces readers to 17-year-old Clare Tovin and her Family Skeleton.
Clare’s 29-year-old brother Luke has been in and out of prison for most of Clare’s life. Skeleton is the silent, Cuban cigar–smoking, brandy-drinking specter of Luke’s crimes, a constant reminder of Clare’s shame at having a criminal for a brother. When Luke announces that he is being released early from his most recent incarceration, Clare begins to hope that maybe this time it will be different; maybe Luke will change, and Skeleton will go away for good. Her controlling mother defends Luke at every turn, claiming that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but Clare finds unexpected allies in her crush, surfer-boy Ryan, her other older brother, 20-something Peter, and even Skeleton. The heartbreaking first-person narration alternates between past and present, and Clare eventually discovers the big brother she adores is guilty of crimes far more violent than repeated theft to fund his alcohol and drug habits. Shinoda’s use of Skeleton as a literary device is brilliantly done and never overdone; his interactions with Clare are silent but full of meaning.
A thought-provoker that will leave readers contemplating the line between family loyalty and self-preservation. (Fiction. 14-18)