An overstuffed page-turner, both melodramatic and absorbing, with a tried-and-true premise: a sibling's struggle to keep her family together despite overwhelming parental neglect. Katherine, 15, living on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., is desperate to keep her sister Tracey, brother Douglas, and half-sister Alisa, fed, clothed, and in school. Her father is far away, with his new family; her mother has been in a bedridden, alcoholic stupor for weeks. Even small tragedies--an overflowing sink or a sulky heating system--can completely consume the family, already coping with emotional burdens. Katherine fears the entrance of social services and the possible break-up of her family so deeply that she tells wild lies to teachers, especially to Mr. Dodgson, who seems to be trying to help her. His efforts, and hers to dodge them, combine for an explosive climax; the brief epilogue is abrupt by comparison. Alisa's search for Asian, the lion king of Narnia (hence the title), and the three older siblings' addiction to cigarettes do not always cleave to or move along the plotline; instead, in her first novel, Quarles's strength is in conveying how it feels to be hungry, tired, and dirty, while attempting to keep up appearances. The characters in this novel are deeply flawed, yet readers will want to know, to the last paragraph, what happens to them.