A chatty fourth-grader named DeeDee is eager to make friends at her new school, but first she must learn what loyalty means.
Bombarded by problems at home, DeeDee encounters more stress in one year than many people confront in a lifetime. Her trailer burns down, which means her family must move again. Her father has left to visit a relative in Mexico and hasn’t come back. She is behind in her school work and struggles to keep up with the help of a special teacher. Watched by older siblings while her mother struggles to earn a living, she eats too much junk food and develops diabetes. Readers will cheer for DeeDee even as she makes bad choices that reveal poor self-esteem: She denies being bilingual, acts embarrassed by a close friend with disabilities, and caves in to bullies because she wants to be part of the popular crowd. DeeDee disappoints herself and must seek encouragement to do what she knows is right, modeling growth. The novel is filled with important issues involving immigration and acceptance of those who are different, though DeeDee’s cheeky narrative voice (“Holy jalapeño”) provides a great deal of levity. Commendably, Belford isn’t afraid to show the cruelty and confusion children evince when their lives are not going as planned.
A busy novel about the importance of compassion and learning to be true to one’s heart, with an endearing protagonist at its core. (Fiction. 8-12)