Baskin’s first novel spans 13 years in the life of an artistic girl torn between perfection and loving herself as she is.
Three-year-old Margo renames herself Rinnie after Rin Tin Tin, “the smartest, fastest, strongest dog in the world.” Rinnie’s family appears to be the perfect wealthy nuclear family of the 1950s, complete with housekeeper and cook, but life in the Gardener home—particularly Rinnie’s—is far from idyllic. Her younger brother is coddled and her older sister held up as an example, while Rinnie, the “monster,” struggles for their mother’s love and approval. After her parents divorce, her brother moves in with Dad, leaving Rinnie and her sister to stay behind to endure Mom’s abuse, often aimed at Rinnie. As Rinnie loses control, she restricts her food intake and keeps track of every bite, convincingly chronicled in her obsessive, present-tense narration. If she can be perfect, she’ll reclaim her parents’ love. The school counselor encourages 16-year-old Rinnie to trust herself to save herself, and with his help, Rinnie paints the monsters of her past to begin the journey toward a future of hope, trust and freedom. Rinnie’s voice is honest and unflinching, gradually maturing from a 3-year-old’s singsong to that of a well-spoken, intelligent teenager.
Readers will fall in love with Rinnie; Baskin has crafted a beautiful story about the complexities of family, self-respect and human connection. (Historical fiction. 14 & up)