Perfect Family

Jerrie Oughton, Author
Jerrie Oughton, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $15 (208p) ISBN 978-0-395-98668-4
Hardcover - 202 pages - 978-0-585-36692-0
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-299-90062-2
Ebook - 208 pages - 978-0-544-00302-6
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Set in 1950s small-town North Carolina and narrated by a ""good"" girl who gets pregnant, this novel would seem to be familiar--except that Oughton's (Music from a Place Called Half Moon) lyrical prose and perceptive characterizations revitalize the plot. The narrator is 15-year-old Welcome (she was named by her older sister, Evelyn Sue, who ""wanted me to always know that, even though I was number three, I was certainly welcome""). Bright and unusually ambitious (she wants to be a pediatrician), she struggles with adolescent awkwardness, strict parents and her first heartbreak. On the rebound, she lets a boy she doesn't love have intercourse with her--just once--and she gets pregnant. Her family ships her off to her childless aunt and uncle, which gives Welcome a chance to ponder her future. The characters throughout are memorable; like Welcome, each uniquely combines ordinary vulnerability with unexpected stores of strength. For example, Evelyn Sue runs off to Hollywood in search of her beloved James Dean, but she returns with real wisdom and adult resolve. Mrs. Horn, neighbor to Welcome's aunt and uncle, survived WWII in a prisoner-of-war camp, feeding her infant twins on raw bird's eggs. The pacing is not always consistent; it's Welcome herself, not any inherent dramatic tension, that will hold readers. Ages 10-14. (Apr.)
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