A resolutely average teenager nearly collapses under the weight of her bipolar father’s outrageous expectations.
Kassidy’s life in “deepest, darkest, dorkiest suburbia” would be manageable (the drudgery of her all-girls’ high school and the unfairness of her brother Raff’s ability to get away with petty criminality notwithstanding), were it not for her sense of responsibility to keep her mercurial father on an even keel. Over the years, she’s gone along with his schemes for fame and recognition, submitting to testing to join Mensa and auditioning for a fish-sticks commercial as well as the National Youth Orchestra. But when Dad announces his intention to coach Kassidy to victory on The X Factor, she realizes that indulging him is no longer a viable strategy. Compounding Kass’ anxiety are a kitchen-sink’s worth of other issues: a reciprocated crush on the boy who turns out to be the object of her friend Char’s affection, the possibility that Raff may be drawn into a life of serious crime, and the discovery of her mother’s secret life outside the home. Gale succeeds in building a claustrophobic emotional atmosphere for her heroine to push back against, but the pileup of issues tips her story into unbelievable, soap-operatic territory.
Readers will enjoy Kass’ self-deprecatingly funny approach to her many problems, but the credulity-straining plotting renders this a secondary purchase, at best. (author’s note) (Fiction. 12-16)