After enrolling in a new school, a girl keeps her physically disabled little brother a secret from a popular clique.
When her family moves from Saskatchewan to Vancouver, British Columbia, to benefit her little brother, Will, 12-year-old Lauren is lonely—and overwhelmed. For the first time, she and Will—who uses a wheelchair and interacts via a communication board and short, spoken words—will be attending the same school. When Lauren meets Callie, a “tomboy” who dreams of playing football instead of conforming to her parents’ “girly girl” stereotypes, she’s thrilled to have a friend. But Callie hangs out with popular, snooty Treena and Maddy, who mock Will, calling him “spaz.” If Lauren reveals that Will is her brother, will she lose her friend? Though Bates sensitively acknowledges Lauren’s feelings of frustration and neglect, Lauren’s relationship with Will is generally affectionate; she plays with him, reassures him, and enjoys making him laugh. Will himself is never depicted as a burden, and his friend and classmate, Blake, happily includes him in activities such as soccer, which Will’s parents encourage. Unfortunately, the predictable ending abruptly reduces Will to a saccharine inspiration for another character’s epiphany, and one-dimensional secondary characters render the author’s exploration of peer pressure somewhat heavy-handed. Most characters, including Lauren and her family, appear white; Maddy is Asian Canadian.
Patronizing disability tropes let down this well-intentioned tale of peer pressure and sibling bonds. (Fiction. 9-12)