Jersey Cameron has lived her whole life in Elizabeth, Mo., where the weather is unpredictable, and complaining about it is a full-time job.
When Jersey’s mother and little sister perish in a tornado, Jersey finds herself rejected by her guilt-ridden, emotionally paralyzed stepfather. He sends her to live in a house full of hostile strangers comprising her alcoholic biological father, who left Jersey and her mother when Jersey was a baby; his boorish wife and her two spoiled daughters (the Cinderella connection won’t be lost on readers); and Jersey’s heartless grandparents. Jersey is immediately put to work washing everyone else’s dishes and is made to sleep on a sofa on the porch (sleeping among the ashes must have been considered too obvious). After a particularly nasty fight with the evil stepsisters, Jersey runs away and finds herself with another set of strangers: her mother’s estranged parents. Readers may find themselves wanting to throttle Jersey by the middle of the book; while Brown starts off doing a wonderful job depicting the grief and depression that comes with such a catastrophic loss, Jersey ends up sounding whiny. The novel’s didacticism—Jersey continually reflects on how good she had it before the tornado, regretting sharp words she can’t take back—also causes it to lose its edge.
A lukewarm story about finding family and starting over. (Fiction. 12-16)