Downing (Daphne's Song) has written a sensitive, moving story that focuses on a family in crisis. When Dad loses his job at the steel mill, 12-year-old Kathleen, her mother, and her three younger sisters must leave their Baltimore home and move to the Chesapeake Bay community of Bay View to live with Uncle Charlie, Aunt Doris, and spoiled 14-year-old Fay. Looking after the younger girls is a job that falls to skinny, brainy, "sensible" Kathleen, who does her best but never seems able to please her tired, tense Mom or the rest of the adults. Kathleen, her 10-yea-old sister Patsy, and Fay are sworn enemies; nevertheless, the sisters discover that Fay has a secret--Joe, 20-year-old sailor-boyfriend who thinks Fay's 18. All the sisters eventually meet Joe at the beach. He's likable and fun and seems to take a brotherly interest in Kathleen, who develops a crush on him. At a local carnival, Patsy tattles about Fay's real age to Joe, and Fay is grounded when her parents see them together. Kathleen feels sorry for her cousin, and the two become more or less friends, to Patsy's chargin. Kathleen's relationship with her mother is on shakier ground, however, especially after she learns that Mom is pregnant again. She finally confronts her mother in an uncharacteristic explosion of temper, which serves to clear the air and to reestablish their loving, confiding relationship. Dad takes a job at Uncle Charlie's gas station, which means the family will be together, albeit in Bay View, not in Baltimore. Downing has drawn an evocative portrait of the struggling American family of our times. Readers who come from similar backgrounds will find it easy to identify with them.