To her horror, an 11-year-old tomboy prankster is forced to take an etiquette class and learn the rules of polite society.
Girls who want to be “something wacko” like “a princess or a movie star” might find the rules of etiquette useful, but Cassidy, Stauffacher’s irrepressible, obnoxious, but still strongly sympathetic heroine, has a more original goal: she longs to be a hobo. And she’s not even the most eccentric character in Stauffacher’s quirky new comedy with a message. Cassidy’s 15-year-old sister, Magda, is fascinated with decomposition—a great present for her would be a dead rodent—and Cassidy’s best friend, Jack, wants to be a stuntman. Although Stauffacher keeps the tone light and humorous in this first-person novel, personal growth is still undeniably painful. In particular, Cassidy, on the cusp of adolescence, has to deal with how the changes in her and Jack’s bodies affect their feelings and behavior. Sadly, after the players and their conflicts are laid out, the book seems to get stuck; the etiquette lessons are not as interminable as they feel to Cassidy, but they don’t have much momentum either. When it comes, the happy ending, though welcome, is a tad hard to buy psychologically.
This intermittently funny book offers likable characters, but it lacks Stauffacher’s customary expert touch. (Fiction. 8-12)