Odette Zyskoski’s life is being ruined by her parents’ decision to sell their house and head north in an RV they’ve dubbed the Coach.
After most of their possessions are disposed of in a garage sale, the prospect of living in tight quarters with her parents and little brother and just one cellphone among them leaves Odette feeling hurt and angry. She resents not having any say in the decision that means leaving her best friend, Mieko, and spending seventh grade being “roadschooled.” The family meanders from Southern California to the Northwest coast to spend time with Grandma Sissy, whose health is declining faster than any of them realizes. On the ferry to Orcas Island, Odette meets a cute, dark-skinned boy named Harris, and they exchange phone numbers. Missed connections nearly spoil their brief friendship, bringing Odette’s frustration with her parents’ lack of understanding to a head. By using a third-person narration that keeps Odette at a slight remove from her family, Arnold captures the loneliness of a young teenager’s inability to express the emotions that accompany life’s upheavals. It’s only Grandma Sissy’s insight into Odette’s complicated feelings—and her aphorism that “the best way out is always through”—that allows Odette to get past her difficulty coping with the unfairness of it all.
An affecting, delicately handled story of growing up. (Fiction. 9-12)