A Louisiana teen embarks on a quest to secure a boyfriend while having to adjust to a new family and the serious illness of a beloved friend.
In this YA novel, 14-year-old Wendy Robichaud starts her freshman year in high school with a clear goal—to become the girlfriend of David Griffin, a boy she admires. She knows the “steps” she’ll have to follow before she reaches girlfriend status with him, including holding hands, public displays of affection, and hanging out with his crowd. But Wendy also learns there’s more to having a boyfriend than being on his speed dial. She encounters obstacles such as strict parental rules about dating and the hurt feelings of her friends when she abandons them to be with David. Also complicating her life are her divorced mother’s remarriage and the move to a new house with her stepdad and stepsiblings, her “instant big family.” When Wendy seeks consolation from Mrs. Villaturo, her former next-door neighbor and surrogate grandmother, she’s dismayed to find her friend acting strangely. Her discovery leads Mrs. V’s son and teenage grandson to travel from their Alaska home to Louisiana to assess the situation and make tough decisions regarding Mrs. V’s future care. Wendy is distraught at the prospect of losing her old friend. Only the compassion of Sam, Mrs. V’s deaf grandson, makes the outcome easier for her to bear. Using Wendy as her narrator, Toney (8 Notes to a Nobody, 2015, etc.) delineates some of the highs and lows of an innocent first love in this fast-paced novel. The story goes beyond its catchy title to tackle serious issues relevant to teens, such as forming healthy relationships, living in a blended family, and coping with an elderly loved one’s Alzheimer’s disease. A subplot involving a long-ago, secret, mixed-race marriage between Wendy’s relatives and those of her African-American best friend, Gayle Freeman, is somewhat contrived but contains a timely message about racial tolerance.
A sensitive YA tale about love, change, and loss, with an empowering message for girls.