Olivia’s older brother, Jacob, is autistic. As time passes, the impact of his condition intensifies, threatening to overwhelm her and her parents.
Jacob’s meltdowns, coming at stressful moments, are growing worse as he moves into his teens. Olivia’s parents, driven by their desire to give him opportunities to grow, imprudently (and surprisingly) put him in situations that seem likely to end in failures. In one such, they encourage him to audition for a part in Peter Pan along with Olivia. Although Jacob gets through the audition and they both get parts in the play, he melts down onstage on opening night—as Olivia expected—and she fails to come to his rescue, leaving her wracked with guilt. Meanwhile, she’s been spending most of her time trying to find a comfort toy, a plastic ostrich, that Jacob lost months before, convinced that without it he’s much worse. She’s helped by her new friend, Charlie, the blind son of the manager of a traveling zoo where Olivia has been helping out, who offers lots of soothing advice. Olivia is well-meaning, realistically trapped between her loving concern for Jacob and the constraints his behavior puts on her life. Her parents are just as ardently devoted but make unexpectedly hapless (surely plot-driven) choices for the sake of Olivia’s growth. The principal characters in this Tulsa, Oklahoma–set tale appear to be white.
A reasonably engaging coming-of-age tale that might especially appeal to children in Olivia’s situation. (Fiction. 10-14)