A nerdy boy and a queen-bee girl become stepbrother and -sister in this comedy/drama.
Hilarity ensues when 13-year-old Stewart learns that he and his dad are moving in with Caroline and her 14-year-old daughter, Ashley. Stewart copes well enough, thanks to his outstanding intelligence, precocious emotional maturity, math skills, and the calm outlook with which he assesses his successes and failures. He’s excited to have a sister. Ashley, on the other hand, couldn’t care less about school and wants nothing to do with her new almost-stepbrother—who, to her mortification, has been bumped up a year and is now in her class. She’s also terrified that people will learn her estranged dad is gay. Ashley scores big when she lands the handsome Jared as a boyfriend, but Stewart knows Jared is a bully because he’s trapped in physical education class with him. The psychodrama is narrated by the two kids in alternating chapters, leavened with constant, wry humor that should keep readers chuckling even as the story grapples with serious emotional issues. Stewart comes across as absolutely adorable. He knows he’s a complete geek with imperfect social skills. His disarming honesty about his intelligence and especially about his weaknesses holds the entire book together, allowing readers to take self-absorbed Ashley with a grain of salt as she goes through what her mother terms the “demon seed” stage.
This savvy, insightful take on the modern family makes for nearly nonstop laughs. (Fiction. 12-18)