Sophie Nieuwenleven has lived in Belgium for most of her life; now 14, she’s beginning to wonder about the odd things her parents say when they’re fighting, not to mention certain hazy and mysterious childhood memories that don’t add up.
Her mother is a rap-loving recluse and her father a garage mechanic who claims a Belgian ancestry. Yet despite giving Sophie’s younger brother the uber-Belgian name Hercule Tintin, both parents seem thoroughly English. Still, Brussels is such a cosmopolitan city that a white, sort-of English, sort-of Belgian girl with a black best friend from the Democratic Republic of the Congo flies under the radar at her international school. Poking around online one day, Sophie uncovers a clue that begins the unraveling of all the lies she’s been told. Or, as Sophie puts it in her cryptic yet strangely comprehensible way, “You probably think I lost my helix.…[C]hasing off to a foreign country to meet a pigeon I’ve just met on the Introvert isn’t anything I’d normally do. But this wasn’t a normal situation.” Sophie and her circle of family and friends are sympathetic and appealing in all their flawed humanity. Her peculiar way of speech soon reads as clearly as plain English and perfectly mirrors her internal turmoil as she navigates her parents’ shift from just mambo and don to people with a past she never imagined—which, to some extent, is a transformation every young person will understand.
A creative and memorable story about secrets, lies, and moving on. (Fiction. 11 & up)