Barely a year after losing her mother to cancer, sixth-grader Violet Barnaby is facing her second Christmas without her—but with her newly remarried father’s wife and her children.
The first Christmas was dubbed Black Christmas, but this one is looking decidedly gray. Now, in addition to dealing with her grief, Violet must find her place in her new stepfamily. Her stepmother, a teacher the kids call the Hammer, proves as difficult at home as she is at school. She lacks empathy and kindness, focusing on her own comfort and desires at the cost of familial harmony. Add in two new stepsiblings, too few chairs at the dining table, and meat on the menu (Violet is a vegetarian), and it is easy to see why Violet feels isolated. When she finds a letter left by her mother that encourages her to make new Christmas memories and move into her new life, Violet wonders if she is ready. Violet’s father and stepmother are painfully clueless and immature, leaving Violet to work out her confusion and grief largely alone. While the treatments of grief, changing friendships, and first crushes are realistic, the constant admonitions from her father to play nice and get along will strike readers as insensitive. The cast is a largely white one.
A mostly emotionally perceptive novel of grief and recovery. (Fiction. 8-12)