cover image Next Door to Happy

Next Door to Happy

Allison Weiser Strout. Holiday House/Ferguson, $17.99 (192p) ISBN 978-0-8234-5086-2

Twelve-year-old Violet Crane is enduring a long, lonely summer when the big, exuberant Walker family moves in next door. Violet’s best friend is at sleepaway camp, her sometimes dismissive father moved out a year prior, and her mother has become increasingly anxious, seldom leaving their home. An only child, Violet sees the Walker brood as a “real family,” complete with a large fluffy dog, and she is delighted when all five siblings befriend her. She initially encourages her mother to meet Mrs. Walker, a former nurse, but soon begins to enjoy having two separate worlds. Fellow rising seventh grader Reggie Walker, a birdwatcher, shares Violet’s introspective nature, and the two form a special bond, until Violet overhears Mrs. Walker call her mother “strange,” and asks him not to visit their home. As Reggie details his own brand of familial unhappiness, involving the way his mother wants him to be more like his popular siblings, Violet works to find herself amid ill-fitting old friendships and this confusing new one. In a softly told debut, Strout captures family chaos, sibling rivalries, and the delicate nature of new bonds via two protagonists who bravely build confidence in their unique identities. Characters cue as white. Ages 9–12. Agent: Steven Chudney, Chudney Agency. (July)