In his third novel, Brooks (The Moves Make the Man, Newbery Honor, 1985) postulates a 21st-century society where teen-agers routinely become their parents' guardians. Most adults are now alcoholics, incapable of responsibility. Among the remainder, many are emotionally crippled members of rigid sects like the First Church of Christ, Abstemious ("Steemers"). At 14, Sam has committed his mother for rehabilitation and placed his younger brother, Ollie, for adoption with a rare nonalcoholic, non-Steemer couple. (There aren't many kids anymore; CRTs caused the birthrate to plummet.) Sam is bright and wants to care for both Mother and Ollie; he knows all the ropes and all the angles, but what he doesn't know is how to be a kid--or to be loved. When his mother gets out, he finds her a job and an apartment and tries to reunite her with Ollie. Mother, however, doesn't conform to either his preconceptions or his plan: by precipitating a second role-reversal, she forces Sam to look at commitment, childhood, and love from a startlingly new perspective. With the disarming use of familiar behavior and familiar phrases (like the title) in imaginative new contexts and juxtapositions, Brooks again surprises readers with his sparkling insights into human nature.