cover image The Year My Parents Ruined My Life

The Year My Parents Ruined My Life

Martha Freeman. Holiday House, $16.95 (160pp) ISBN 978-0-8234-1324-9

What is worse than having to leave a land full of sunlight, surf, sizzling romance and a clique of loyal friends? The answer, Kate Sommers discovers to her dismay, is ending up in Belletoona, Pa., ""a cold, gray, rain-soaked place."" In 16 economically penned chapters, Freeman (Stink Bomb Mom) chronicles the woes of a displaced Californian adjusting to a new house (with a broken furnace), a new school (where everyone thinks her red coat is ""dorky"") and a new climate (there are record-breaking snow falls that winter). While Kate remains center stage as the sympathetic heroine, minor characters provide a colorful backdrop: for instance, Kate's mother, a successful career woman, unexpectedly turns domestic and Kate's father gets sued by the principal of her school. Meanwhile, Kate's precocious little sister, Danielle, reeks general havoc swirling around the house playing ""dancing-ballerina-snowflake princess"" and quoting excerpts from her mother's steamy novel, Scarlet Lace. The family becomes frantic after Kate runs away from home to return to her best friend in California, but everything turns out all right in the end with Kate returning home a lot wiser and a little happier. Although the general scheme of things is predictable, the author plants enough surprises to keep readers alert and satisfied. Her personable characters, dry sense of humor and understanding of the adolescent mind are sure to draw a tidal wave of fans. Ages 10-14. (Oct.)