Raymond’s multilayered young adult novel is a coming-of-age story set against modern themes of medicated teens, sibling rivalry and self-discovery.
Twelve-year-old Daniel used to do many things: build Lego cities, draw pictures, write poems, play music, solve puzzles, speak his mind. Now he lives in “a pink pill fog” where he escapes into computers, gaming consoles and digital devices. His mother, a famous pop star, ignores him. His grandmother rules their home with an iron fist. But Daniel survives because he has his pills. He never gets too sad because then they’ll only medicate him more. And he never gets mad because they’ll only take away his games. His routine is punctuated by prescriptions and new games, but he isn’t really alive. When his starlet mother wants an image makeover to improve her reputation and enrich her home, she adopts a Haitian orphan, Jean-Maurice, who becomes the catalyst of change, heralding a new age of emotion for Daniel. In Jean-Maurice, with his dreadlocks and a scar on his chin, Daniel finds a brother who inspires him to speak up against his tyrannical guardian and for his troubled sister. As Daniel’s rebellion plays out, his imagination returns in drips and bursts: Grandma shape-shifts into a robotic monster; groupies float through the house as little schools of fish and local kids are refurbished with circuit switches. The prose sings like a rock opera featuring preteen observations and real-life conflict. The adult world unravels around the three siblings as they struggle with their roles within the family, against grandma’s puritanical methodology. While his sister believes in “every man for himself,” Daniel begins to understand that if he is to keep his family together, he must finally speak up and take action. Raymond successfully builds tension by exposing the family from its roots and peeling back layers of mental, emotional and physical abuse. The adventurous twists and contemporary teen angst make this story a winner.
Several twists deepen the narrative’s emotional impact as it approaches its climax and slightly convenient conclusion.