When Ivy’s newly divorced mother takes in a young boarder, the 12-year-old strongly disapproves.
Ivy’s mom joins a local church and then takes in Caleb, also 12 and the son of missionaries. Likable enough, he does everything he can to please, including being exceptionally helpful in entertaining Ivy’s energetic kindergarten-aged younger brother, JJ, a child she’s too-often tasked with mothering. In a believable subplot, Ivy’s best friend has taken on a lot of unpleasant new behaviors in an effort to be accepted by the populars at their school. Ivy is torn between friendship-ensuring compliance with her unreasonable demands and a normal urge to draw the line somewhere. Meanwhile, Caleb tells JJ stories about difficult living conditions in Haiti, but Ivy, in the face of seemingly strong contrary evidence, decides he’s making up the tales. She’s such a grounded, generally sensible kid that her irrational rejections of Caleb feel forced and frustratingly out of character, just as is his unwillingness to set her straight. Ivy’s eavesdropping on her mother’s conversations provides a needed humorous counterpoint to the real issue she’s encountering: the need to take on too much adult responsibility at a time when she’s not quite mature enough to handle it.
A coming-of-age tale with sufficient heart, an appealing narrator and an unusual conflict combine for a fine read. (Fiction. 10-14)