A young woman overcomes adversity while uncovering family secrets in this YA novel.
Eleven-year-old Dolores “Dottie” Bouchard is not thrilled to be stuck spending her summer with her bullying cousin, Tommy Swanson. Even discounting their gender and one-year age differences, the cousins could not be less alike. But with her father recovering from a serious injury and her mom working full-time during his recovery, Dottie is spending her days at Aunt Joanie’s in-home day care. Dottie is determined to become an investigative reporter; Tommy can barely read. But when Tommy disappears a short time later and the family seems quick to forget his very existence, Dottie chalks it up to another Bouchard mystery, like the reasons behind her veteran grandfather’s PTSD and the way relatives can go years without speaking. Her grandmother’s death—and the revelation of her late-in-life Mary Kay career—enables Dottie to become the first member of her family to attend college. As a freshman, Dottie (now called Lores) is determined to find out more about her grandfather’s World War II service, but her research draws her back into the questions surrounding Tommy’s disappearance. With the support of her boyfriend, Leo, Lores uses her investigative skills to uncover the truth, which is not nearly as shocking as she had feared. What starts out as a seemingly predictable story about an intelligent, awkward adolescent turns into an engrossing mystery that is impossible to put down. In the course of her research, Lores evolves into a self-confident young woman who not only no longer cares about the mole on her face, but also forges a well-defined career path. Engaging secondary characters—Leo, Vietnam veteran Max, the protagonist’s bikers-turned–teenage parents, Ray and Perry, and goodhearted but gruff Aunt Joanie—add considerable depth to Wenner’s (Painting the Lake, 2016) tale. Subtly drawn parallels between the ongoing war in Vietnam and the effects of World War II on her grandfather further enrich the narrative, which should appeal to both YA and adult audiences.
Memorable characters, setting, and mystery elevate this story of adolescent angst.