However, I will not be letting my kids read this book until they're in their teens. First, because the protagonist, a girl named Addie, gets her period and starts wearing bras, and I'm pretty sure they won't be comfy reading about that until they're older -- especially Sam, heh. But second because there's a secondary character who is gay. He has a boyfriend, and it doesn't go into any detail about this, but that's another conversation we're not going to have for a few years yet, thanks.
So anyway, Addie is amazing. Like, the most spunktacular kid I have read about in years, but in a totally realistic way. Her dad died when she was tiny, and her mom remarried a very cool guy. They had two daughters together, and then got divorced. Because Addie's mom has problems. I don't know if she's manic-depressive or bi-polar or what, but I do know she is an unfit mother.
Addie and her mom move into a tiny trailer home, basically a camper, courtesy of her ex-step-dad, who tries to remain in Addie's life because she clearly needs a stable adult around somewhere. Addie's mom spends most of her time on the internet, staying up late and then waking up sometime in the afternoon, about when Addie gets home from school. Addie does basically all the cleaning and all the cooking. All the laundry. Everything. Her mom sits in front of the computer. That is, she does when she's home.
The woman disappears for days at a time. Addie fends for herself with the help of new friends she makes, the people who run a gas station nearby. And the most amazing thing? Addie doesn't feel sorry for herself like 99% of the time. This is her life, so she lives it. She's resourceful, she's intelligent, she's savvy, she's cheerful. She has trouble studying because she has dyslexia, but she learns quickly aside from that. Oh, and she's compassionate and quick to forgive too.
But she's also just a twelve-year-old kid. Bad stuff happens, and she tries to cope the best she can, but... she can't fix everything. She can't be a mother to her own mom. She can't save her neighbor who's dying of cancer. Addie is a mighty girl, but she's not a superhero. She's real, she's flawed, she's lonely and scared and brave and sad and all kinds of wonderful. I want to adopt her or befriend her or something!
Happily, Addie gets a happy ending. I was worried for a long time she wouldn't, but she does.
If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-13 for the issues I described above, adults smoking, and a short sequence involving very real danger to a child.