A multigenerational Caribbean cruise provides the setting for the latest entry in this series about two stepsisters who bond through the endangered wildlife they encounter.
Diana, 15, struggling with a mood disorder, feels press-ganged into joining the family cruise in honor of her stepdad’s mother, especially when she learns she and new stepsister Stephanie, 14, must share their stateroom with Stephanie’s bossy cousin Lauren. Also 14, Lauren records whatever’s in her vicinity on her video camera. Diana’s refusal to hang out in the teen nightclub with them and the boys they meet threatens to destroy the festive mood, while timid Stephanie wants everyone to feel included but is unsure how to fix things. Luckily, finding an endangered baby blue iguana gives Diana a focus. Embodying the gentle religious subtext (an inclusive one, stressing behavior over belief), Stephanie’s aware she’s been blessed by an easygoing temperament, likability and good looks, and she feels these gifts confer responsibilities. One major element throws the narrative off balance: the sisters’ vocabulary, naïveté and social interactions feel like those of children three or more years younger. Only Lauren, an adolescent questioning parental authority, seems developmentally on track.
The blandly commercial setting muffles the author’s usually acute observations, but when Iggy the iguana enters the picture, pacing and energy pick up. (Fiction. 9-12)