Jayce has coped with too much adult responsibility, with her mom raising the 16-year-old and her 4-year-old sister alone, barely scraping by.
Now, tragically, her mother’s dying of cancer, and Jayce needs help. The most likely source would seem to be the girls’ long-absent musician father, Joe. (The whole family is white.) With help from Kurt, a white classmate who gently reaches out and provides desperately needed emotional support, Jayce locates and visits her father only to discover that he has a second family and that she’s not welcome there. Kurt has plenty of needs of his own; he’s the only caregiver for his frail, increasingly confused grandmother. With Joe effectively useless, Jayce’s mom contacts her own estranged mother, a kindly woman who immediately strives to fill the void and make up for the long separation. For Jayce though, so familiar with her mother’s years of desperation, this reunion is far from welcome. She believably struggles to control her anger and disgust with her grandmother. As is so typical of stories depicting teens in untenable positions, other adults seem oblivious to both Jayce’s and Kurt’s many burdens. The painful counterpoint of Jayce’s situation to her BFF’s boyfriend problems is especially poignant. A feel-good conclusion wraps up nearly all issues ever so neatly.
Trials and tragedy with a happy ending for nearly all, a comfort read for teens. (Fiction. 12-16)