Two siblings struggle to adjust to life with their two very different uncles.
Twelve-year-old Jack and 9-year-old Birdie, white children named after Jackie Kennedy and Lady Bird Johnson, respectively, are happy enough living with Uncle Carl, eating Honey Bunny Buns (a convenience-store foodstuff that shows up far too often for no discernible reason) and helping him win the heart of his food-truck–operator girlfriend. Their mother died almost a year ago in a car accident following a history of episodes that some may recognize as bipolar disorder, and Carl’s tiny town of Moser, California, is less welcoming than their old home in Oregon. Birdie’s attendance at school is spotty; classmates and administrators think that a young boy in pink leggings, headbands, and nail polish is distracting, and truancy officers remove the children to live with taciturn Uncle Patrick, who is more than happy to enforce a gender-normative dress code on Birdie. A flat plot basically follows the children through this adjustment period, and much of the conflict centers on the various bullies Birdie has to deal with, including an obligatory scene of homophobic violence in a boy’s bathroom. Despite the young protagonists, most of the book focuses on the relationships among the various adults, with the children serving more as instruments than fully realized or engaging characters.
A paint-by-numbers coming-of-age—it’s readable, but that’s about it. (Fiction. 10-14)