Middle-class girls in early adolescence will love this book—as will their mothers.
Ninth-grader Charlie Collins has lived with her mother, a divorced Harvard professor, for many years. Now Mom’s new husband, Joe, has moved into the spacious house, along with his sweet 9-year-old daughter, Samantha, and his notoriously flirtatious ninth-grade son, Kevin. From the first page, readers are sucked into a story both angst-y and funny, as Charlie copes with a mutual crush on Kevin; an increasingly tenuous relationship with her best friend, Tess; her first paying job; and other trials and triumphs of growing up. The theme of adjustment to stepfamilies is integrated into every facet of the story, including homework: “There was no way I could settle down enough to read about Hamlet’s scheming stepfather and how awkward it was for Hamlet to deal with a blended family. Uh, no.” Charlie tells her story in the past tense, but the vivid, awkward conversations and Charlie’s constant editorializing—both wittily humorous and earnestly serious—make it clear that the events are in the recent past and that Charlie’s tale will continue to unfold. Vail shows emotional development in the characters introduced in If We Kiss (2005) and liberally sprinkles their lives with such contemporary activities as texting, while sheltering them in a world where French-kissing and finger-lacing are their limits of sexual intimacy.
An enjoyable romance that eschews smutty for sweet. (Fiction. 12-16)