Serena Shaw is a seventh grader whose life changed 18 months ago when her mom went on a business trip and never returned. Her brother Henry, a second grader, still doesn’t understand the loss and neither of them get what’s happening to their father, a notable illustrator. As each day goes by, he becomes steeped in depression, the blue, an illness he suffered from long before his wife died in a car accident. Serena is stretched as she takes on adult responsibilities (e.g., cooking and taking care of Henry) all while practicing to be the lead in The Wiz.
Jones’ fans will not be disappointed. As in her previous books, she depicts a smart, ambitious and resourceful girl. If Jones falters at all, it is in the conclusion. Up until then, Serena problem solves, but when the tension reaches its height, Jones chooses to have her uncle save the day leaving readers to protest: A strong character like Serena would have called 911 on her own. Readers will probably be so engrossed in the book that they will ignore (or explain away) this slip-up.
Disclosure: I asked FSG for this book because I enjoy Jones' work.