In this delightful and moving follow-up to Jumping Off Swings (2009), 17-year-old Josh moves away from his hometown and in with his ever-sanguine uncle to avoid confronting a crisis of his own making.
He’s been tormented by immeasurable guilt after a one-night stand resulted in a teen girl’s pregnancy and, ultimately, the delivery of his baby. Uncle Larry, corny and sentimental, opens his arms to his troubled nephew, hoping to give him both guidance and room. As an avid Jackie Chan fan and a sensei, Larry spouts daily tenets about what makes a “true karate man”—which in its simplest terms means being a kind, decent person who unflinchingly helps those in need. But Josh’s escape to the city isn’t without frequent reminders of his indiscretion, and every time he passes a stroller or hears a baby wailing, he experiences severe anxiety attacks—which makes it especially difficult when Stella, a girl of intrigue for Josh, turns out to be the nanny for his upstairs neighbor’s baby. As their friendship grows, Josh struggles to keep his moral transgression under wraps, but he soon discovers that Stella has baggage of her own. Josh’s first-person, present-tense narration brings readers into his anguish and incrementally charts his recovery. Knowles’ knack for developing relationships and creating authentic and memorable characters is truly superior, and the story positively brims with intelligence, sensitivity and humor.
Readers will be behind Josh all the way. (Fiction. 14 & up)