Having hastily moved 26 times, the aptly named Quirks arrive in Normal, Mich., determined to blend in—a tall order as all but nearly 10-year-old Molly have magical abilities and underdeveloped senses of responsibility.
Being (seemingly) the only Quirk without magic and the most well-adjusted to boot, Molly gamely struggles to ride herd on her filthy, prank-loving little brother, Finn, who is invisible to all but her (except, as it turns out, when he’s chewing gum), and her depressed, troubled twin Penelope, whose every stray thought or mental image turns real. The rest of the clan? Molly’s father vanished five years ago; her frazzled mother, Bree, holds a job only because she can control the minds of others to cover her incompetence; a wimpy monster named Niblet lives under Molly’s bed; Grandpa Quill can reset time in small doses but not always voluntarily; and Grandma is a bird-sized fairy justly terrified of cats. Though spinning these discomfiting circumstances and abilities into light slapstick is at best a quixotic enterprise, Soderberg tries. She surrounds the Quirks with relentlessly oblivious regular folk, creates a series of consequence-free messes and disasters that disappear tidily between chapters, and hauls in heavy contrivances at the climax to make the town’s collective effort to create the world’s largest wad of chewed gum a success. Light’s frequent illustrations capture most of the grosser incidents, of which there are a goodly number.
A cliffhanger ending isn’t the only sour note in this series opener. (Fantasy. 8-10)