Bea, 12, reflects on life since her parents’ divorce when she was 8.
Bea, who is white, tells her story in a direct, conversational tone, with age-appropriate insights. Mostly she describes interactions with family members near and far, including her parents and her father’s partner, the aunt, uncle, and cousins with whom she and her parents spend an annual two-week summer vacation, and the new sister by marriage whose visit she eagerly anticipates. Glimpses of her school experiences focus on frustrations or antagonisms, like her struggle with spelling or the times that she allows her anger to spill out and cause (minor) injury to others. Stead packs in plenty of issues—divorce, therapy, a gay parent, homophobia, and a painful case of eczema—but her prose never descends to moralizing or moaning. Instead, Bea’s authentic, accessible voice and smooth interweaving of anecdotes keep the tone relatively light and make for a sometimes-amusing, sometimes-poignant exploration of realistic contemporary experiences and concerns. The acknowledgements that not every problem can be solved and that doing a bad thing does not necessarily make someone a bad person will reassure readers that they too can find balance and comfort in complicated circumstances. Supported by multidimensional, sympathetic family and friends, Bea ultimately finds that her list of certainties provides the necessary foundation for personal growth—and change.
Uplifting without sentimentality, timely not trendy, and utterly engaging. (Fiction. 8-12)