In Roberts’ debut YA riches-to-rags story, the daughter of a self-help guru searches for her lost father and finds herself.
Darcy Covington discovers who her true friends are when her Audi is towed from her private school’s parking lot. While most of her classmates gawk from the sidelines, only her best friend, Sal, comes to her aid. Darcy’s father’s self-help business is going bankrupt, and he’s gone missing. Her only clues to his whereabouts are the cryptic postcards he sends from the road (“I’m still looking. Not sure when I’ll find it. But I love you. –Dad”). Now his business partner, J.J., is threatening to seize the family’s home if they can’t come up with the money to buy it from the company. The fallout from the scandal unfolds in media sound bites—including a David Letterman–style top-10 list that doesn’t quite land—but Darcy’s observations about her plight are astute: “The sleek, spiky silver chandelier made me think of knife blades poised above us while we ate, but Mom bought it during a European shopping spree, so we were stuck with it.” While her mother drinks herself into oblivion, Darcy takes refuge in her estranged Uncle Charlie’s thrift shop. As she warms up to Charlie, she sees how her hippie uncle and her overachieving father are opposite sides of the same coin: Charlie applies his brother’s wisdom by being kind to his customers, who tell stories in exchange for doughnuts. Not since Uncle Leo in Barthe DeClements’ Sixth Grade Can Really Kill You (1985) has an uncle made such an impact. Darcy also sees glimpses of her future self in Charlie’s friend Liz, who runs a cozy (and chaotic) coffee shop nearby. When Darcy meets Charlie’s trusted employee, Lucas, she’s immediately smitten. Ultimately, though, her personal transformation is more compelling than her crush: her confidence grows as she admirably takes over the household duties, from baking casseroles to coordinating her family’s estate sale. Lucas, though unfailingly chivalrous, is left behind when Darcy finds another clue in the Stonehenge replica she created with her father—a wonderful narrative detail—and goes on a rescue mission to bring him home.
A promising debut featuring a crackerjack heroine who doesn’t need a hero to complete her sweet, rambling quest.