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by Traci L. Jones

Age Range: 10 - 14

Pub Date: July 19th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-374-36914-9
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

A young teen struggles to balance responsibilities she shouldn't have to assume against the day-to-day travails of seventh grade.

Serena Shaw, a spirited middle-school student, is trying to keep her family together following the accidental death of her mother and the subsequent debilitating depression of her father, a noted illustrator. Her little brother is having problems coping with the change in their family. For a while, Serena thinks her father is just in a funk, and there are moments when he is able to work, but these are outweighed by days when he doesn’t get out of bed. Serena has always dreamed of getting the lead in her school musical, but this means more pressure as she works on the play and assumes more responsibility at home as her father slips deeper into “the blue.” She tries everything to reach her father, but his condition worsens with each day, culminating in an attempt to take his life. Finally, a family member steps in to help in the crisis. The portrayal of Serena is strong, showing both her maturity in handling her family problems and her normal seventh-grade insecurities. There are moments of great poignancy as Serena remembers her mother, who, though absent, is still an important figure.

A compassionate portrait of an African-American family coping with grief and mental illness. (Fiction 10-14)