Convinced that doom is imminent, Wolf’s free-spirit mom uproots the family for a quixotic cross-country consciousness-raising campaign to save the honeybees.
Having researched the school project that set Jade, his mom, in motion, 12-year-old Wolf knows that the bees are in danger, but he’d rather stay put and go to school, and he really doesn’t want to wear the stupid bee costume. Wolf‘s perpetually angry teenage stepsister, Violet, figures out how to bring boyfriend Ty along despite severe parental disapproval. And while 5-year-old Saffron seems perfectly happy to dance around in her bee outfit, her withdrawn twin, Whisper, has stopped talking entirely. Spurred by both their own misery and Whisper’s distress, Wolf and Violet decide they have to take the future Jade says they won’t have into their own hands. Stevenson takes a setup that could easily devolve into farce and focuses instead on the kids’ very real emotions. Wolf is a terrific narrator, more self-aware than the average 12-year-old but in the end just as ready to rationalize selfishness, however necessary, as his mother is. The twins, Violet, and the unexpectedly helpful Ty emerge as three-dimensional characters, as do some of the adults the family encounters. Both Jade and Wolf’s stepfather, however, are less successfully drawn, the former cartoonishly monomaniacal and the latter a cipher.
Although Stevenson leaves the family’s future up in the air, she gives Wolf a victory that will resonate with readers. (Fiction. 10-14)