After her ne'er-do-well older brother, Peyton, is sent to prison, demure, obedient Sydney leaves her sheltered private school for a new start.
Avoiding her family after her first day at Jackson High School, Sydney fortuitously stops for a snack at Seaside Pizza. There, she meets siblings Mac and Layla, who quickly befriend her. Sydney is drawn into the warm world of their family and the pizza business, and crisp, unusual details bring each character and set of relationships to life. At home, Sydney's mother throws herself obsessively into "supporting" Peyton and pressures Sydney to become as involved in visiting Peyton and talking to him on the phone as she has, without respect to either Sydney's or Peyton's wishes. Although Sydney's mother's character sometimes feels one-note, Sydney's frustration with her mother's willful denial and relative neglect of her is palpable and poignant. This tension shows itself most unsettlingly when Sydney's parents go out of town for a weekend and leave Sydney in the care of Peyton's friend Ames, whose sinister interest in Sydney is clear to everyone who pays attention. Overall, the story moves slowly and subtly, creating a rich emotional landscape and letting small changes—Layla finds a boyfriend; Sydney's mom and brother have a fight—ripple out gently.
A many-layered story told with a light touch. (Fiction. 14-18)