Seventeen-year-old Henry navigates difficult territory when his adoptive father decides to run for local office just as his older brother, Simon, returns from serving in an unnamed war, bringing his girlfriend, Gracie Lyn Mahdavi, and their baby daughter home with him.
Henry and his twin sister, Helena, experienced a safe and relatively uneventful upbringing after being adopted as young children by Dr. Knights, a school superintendent, and his wife, who died soon afterward. But now, as an older teen, Henry feels invisible to his dad. Simon’s struggle with what seems to be PTSD and his problematic use of alcohol and drugs to cope are sympathetically described, and perhaps due to this focus, Simon is the most extensively developed of all the characters, who otherwise feel one dimensional. Henry and Helena’s adoption and their father’s political ambitions are interesting details, but they are not fully explored. This novel geared for struggling readers depicts Henry’s family’s story in brief passages in verse that make for a quick-paced and accessible read, though the overuse of italics detracts from their ability to effectively cue any particular emphasis. The Knights family and other characters seem to be white by default. Gracie Lyn is Muslim and from Atlantic City.
The brevity and format of this family drama may appeal to reluctant readers, but the story itself isn’t completely engaging. (Verse novel. 14-18)