Two British preteens grapple with their parents’ divorces—and sharing a home.
In Scotland, 11-year-old Elin lives with her divorced mother and her mother’s boyfriend, Paul. She believes that if she can be her father’s “Perfect Princess,” he’ll be persuaded to return. In England, Jamie, also 11, lives with his divorced mother and her boyfriend, Chris, whom he does not get along with. Due to ADHD, he’s impulsive, forgetful, and never perfect. Instead of relocating to the U.S. with his mom and Chris and at his mother's urging, Jamie moves in with his dad. After establishing each protagonist’s background through alternating first-person chapters, Williamson reveals that Jamie’s father is Paul. As Elin and Jamie adjust to living and going to school together, their initial spats turn to all-out war. The harder Elin schemes to break up the family, the harder Jamie tries to keep the peace, driving the plot. Parental arguments, financial strain, and other dynamics add to the tension, and a butterfly motif unites the story. When the kids finally realize the pain they share, they join forces to become a blended family in an encouraging ending. Although Elin and Jamie are vastly different, the author deftly shows the trauma of divorce on children. Most characters are assumed white; Paul is ethnically Chinese, and Jamie is implied biracial (Chinese/white).
An achingly realistic, yet hopeful, depiction of divorce. (Fiction. 8-12)