As the last of her family slips away, 17-year-old narrator Kendall struggles for equilibrium against bleak odds. A prologue establishes the loss, at age four, of her mother, father and brother in a car crash. Her grandmother raises Kendall in Chicago until a second, fatal stroke. Kendall, who had already been struggling with juggling school and the responsibility of caring for her grandmother, heads to New Orleans to try to find her Aunt Janet. Janet hastily abandons her duplex apartment before Kendall gets there. But her aunt's landlady, Miss Clare, who lives with her wheelchair-bound daughter, Evie, in the adjacent apartment, offers Kendall several nights' lodging at Janet's place in return for light duties for Evie. Smith (Lucy the Giant) reveals through smooth dialogue and prescient details, several characters who grow in importance for Kendall. Smart 17-year-old Evie, who has muscular dystrophy and sings like Sarah Vaughan, masks her vulnerability with a sneering devil-may-care attitude. Kendall calls Evie on her self-pity and her disregard for her hard-working mother. In turn, Evie and Clare, first by relying on Kendall and then through genuinely caring, help her to realize that true friends can bridge chasms caused by family loss. The New Orleans setting predominates: the Cafe du Monde, shotgun shacks, the Mississippi and Mardi Gras add gritty verve. Even before-and despite-a disappointing heart-to-heart with her reluctant aunt, Kendall has found her new home. Ages 12-up.
Reviewed on: 07/03/2006 Release date: 07/01/2006
Library Binding - 184 pages - 978-0-385-90343-1
Mass Market Paperbound - 184 pages - 978-0-440-23945-1