A young teen seeks platonic, familial, and romantic connections.
Dan’s life has gone from socially poor but financially privileged to cliché-level terrible now that his father has lost the family fortune, come out, and left his mother. Having moved into a grand but drafty and smelly historic house left them by his mother’s great-aunt Adelaide, Dan’s dread of starting at a new school halfway through the year is both mitigated and sharpened by his crush on his gorgeous next-door neighbor, Estelle. When Dan discovers that Estelle maintains a secret aerie in their shared attic space, he’s unable to resist the temptation to read the diaries she keeps there, but his guilt over this violation builds as he and Estelle slowly establish a flirty friendship. Aussie Wood makes Dan struggle realistically to overcome his problems: he and his mother clash over their money woes and his refusal to speak to his father; his job options are limited due to his youth; and he’s so afraid of saying the wrong thing at school that he clams up and occasionally faints. Over time, he matures and takes risks, reaping both the rewards and consequences of his choices. The excitement culminates in the time-honored way—at a school dance—setting up a finale readers will gobble up.
This romance is effervescent and sweet, but it offers welcome substance along with the sparkle. (Fiction. 12-16)