Age Range: 11 - 14
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Mama checks into a mental hospital after one of her occasional spells turns into something deeper. It’s two years after the accident that killed her son and changed the family forever. His sister, 13-year-old tomboy Buddy, cannot understand why her family will not discuss the situation or their feelings, but does recognize the embarrassment they may face if their 1960s small town finds out. Buddy’s exciting summer before her first year of high school turns into dealing with her mother’s “selfishness” and inability to heal immediately, her father’s lack of emotion, and her boy-crazy friend Ginger’s attempt to make her over with makeup and padded bras. Borrowing from her grandmother’s patience; her free-spirited, caring, young aunt who becomes a live-in big sister; and another friend, Verna, whose poverty, polio-stricken mother, and unconventional father draw ridicule throughout town, Buddy learns that everyone has their idiosyncrasies. Her father is sensitive and dedicated to the family; community is about helping, not rejecting, members in need; and a crush may lead to potential romance. Most of all, Buddy succeeds in coming to terms with her true feelings about her “perfect” big brother, letting her mother—and herself—take on life one day at a time, and realizing that mourning is not forgetting, but keeping memories alive. While first-time author Fritz marks the time period with references to lunch-counter sit-ins, soda fountains, and Elvis Presley, she also shows that the need for friends and family remains timeless. Although the ending, a little too neat and tidy, also arrives too quickly, readers will be drawn to Buddy’s frankness and compassion and how one family copes with problems that continue today. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-7868-0790-3
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Hyperion
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2002