New friends ease a young teen’s adjustment to his mother’s sudden absence.
After Zachary’s mom abandons them, he and his father move to a small Connecticut town, where he makes friends with 14-year-old Rachel and her mildly mentally disabled older brother, Teddy. Teddy is a musical prodigy but less capable in other areas. Rachel has always vigorously defended him from local bullies, but her assiduous care has limited his ability to develop to his fullest potential. Juggling his growing friendship with Teddy and his increasing desire for a deeper relationship with prickly Rachel, Zachary also faces his unresolved grief and anger over his mother’s sudden departure. From a quirky pair of local restaurateurs to a pregnant teacher to Zachary’s loving father, each character is given a personality, and even those just lightly sketched come off the pages as real people. Realistic dialogue and poignantly amusing situations—Teddy steals his mother’s ashes from their resting place in a teapot in the family diner in order to “let her out,” leaving Zachary to try to save the day without hurting anyone’s feelings—all come together to gently flesh out a few months in the lives of people readers will savor getting to know.An outstanding, humane coming-of-age tale of loss, yearning and forgiveness. (Fiction. 10-14)