Self-contained, responsible Plum, long eclipsed by her brilliant, exhausting older sister, Ginny, breaks free when domestic disasters reshape the family landscape.
The sisters’ beloved Victorian home needs costly maintenance. That’s not happening on their artist mother’s teaching income and book royalties, even with a paying tenant. Their deceased father’s life-insurance payout covers tuition at the girls’ Philadelphia private school. Financial stress aside, the all-white, all-female trio, plus pets, is close-knit, though Ginny, a senior whose Ivy League hopes rest on winning a hefty scholarship, feels overwhelmed. Plum, 15—shy at school, assertive at home—soothes her, shouldering household tasks Ginny’s too agitated or busy for and their distracted mother overlooks. As they’re coping with a financial blow that coincides with a plumbing emergency, Ginny ditches her family for Thanksgiving. Feeling abandoned, Plum keeps her hesitant, fledging friendship with outgoing, popular Tate Kurokawa (implied biracial white Jewish/Japanese), her social opposite, secret. When she’s hired to tutor Tate, their awkward, confusing affinity grows. The sisters’ relationship—what pulls them apart, what draws them together when their connection is strained—is the story’s beating heart. While there’s romance, this is no pink-coded, Austen retread but a well-told, universally human—regardless of gender—tale about teens discovering who they are, where they want to go, and how to get there.
This wise, funny, thoroughly contemporary coming-of-age tale earns bonus points for acing the Bechdel test. (Fiction. 13-18)