An inventive seventh grade fixer discovers the downside of solving others’ problems.
Since their mother left their family, over a year ago, narrator Gladys, 12, and her sisters—popular Mabel, 16, and brainy Agnes, 9—have longed for her return. Their hardworking lawyer dad can’t replace what’s missing. Glad discovered her problem-solving skills three years earlier, when their mom needed an excuse for forgetting Agnes at school. Now, Glad regularly finds excuses for Mabel and provides desperate classmates with cover stories. She helps one sustain belief in a fictitious Canadian boyfriend; makes up excuses for another to miss band practice; and assists a third in shedding the girly school apparel her grandma insists on for the T-shirts and jeans she prefers. Trustworthy, dependable Glad never extracts payment for her efforts. A few friends would be nice, yet popularity eludes her. Her only lunch-table companion remains grade-skipping “Harry Homework,” 10, who assists classmates with homework (André, the Anti-Bullying Aardvark notwithstanding) to avoid harassment. As Glad is asked to invent more-complicated fixes, school administrators are becoming suspicious. Planning for Mom’s promised visit presents another challenge: keeping Dad from dating until then. Ably assisted by a diverse cast of characters, Glad (who, like her family, is white) discovers that learning how to solve one's own problems is necessary to avoid making them again.
Smart, insightful, poignant—leavening brutal, middle school realities with wry humor. (Fiction. 10-14)