Izzy knows she’s got to look out for her little cousin after his mom’s death, but what about how this sucks for her?
After Oliver’s mom killed herself six weeks ago, Oliver and his dad moved into Izzy’s house. Uncle Henderson is sleepwalking through life, though, and Oliver is super needy. Izzy loves her fifth-grader cousin and wants to protect him, but it’s hard to be 12 and have someone she regards as a little kid tagging along. She means to be good, but she’s coping with too much: her parents’ divorce, her dad’s impending baby, and her two best friends’ interest in boys and popularity. Then her mom’s dentist boyfriend has a family emergency, so his scary 16-year-old son needs to spend a few days in Izzy’s basement. Izzy’s heard horror stories about Ben Gustino, with his scary tattoos and his clompy boots. Oliver even likes Ben better than he likes Izzy, the little traitor. The sudden crisis bringing these three struggling outcasts together follows predictable patterns, but their journey—complete with a new, Big Bird hairstyle for Izzy and a car theft—leads to a satisfying if tidy catharsis. Izzy’s desire to become a stand-up comic is a nice touch, though her obsession with Jerry Seinfeld and Melissa McCarthy adds reliance on cultural references that won’t necessarily be common among young readers. The book adheres to the white default.
An undemanding family drama. (Fiction. 10-12)