Grade-seven student Suze Tamaki decides whether or not to reconnect with her 10-years-absent mother.
Suze is comfortable: she has her father and older sister at home and her apathy at school. That is, until she comes home to find her absentee mother, Caroline. Suze’s sister, Tracie, tries to stop Suze from spending time with Caroline by invoking a pact they signed years before, causing strain between the sisters. While Suze struggles with feelings of abandonment, she decides to give her mother another chance, a choice made with such understanding that it pushes credulity. However, Suze’s voice shines with authenticity, which balances her sometimes unbelievable decisions. Meanwhile, at school, Suze’s English teacher sees through her likable antihero persona and slyly partners her with a model-student friend for a special project. Surprisingly, Suze finds she wants to do well, which will win her a permanent place in Honors English. Eventually, things with Caroline, Tracie, and school come to a head, but all ends well without resolving too neatly. Suze, half Japanese-Canadian and half Anglo-Canadian, is disconnected from her Japanese heritage, which allows the narrative to skirt issues that sometimes come with being biracial and a minority. Also unfortunate are the digs at A.J., Suze’s strong, mother-figure aunt, whose weight is overemphasized.
A solid story that explores themes of family, abandonment, and belonging. (Fiction. 10-14)