Levine Querido. Apr. 2021. 256p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781646140428.
Gr 6 Up–Eli, who is white and doesn’t mind being mistaken for a boy, has a life of positives and negatives. Positives include her older sister, Anna, and best friends Javi, who is Puerto Rican and gay, and Meena, who is Indian American and “the prettiest girl in eighth grade.” Negative is Eli’s crush on Meena, because Eli thinks Meena likes boys. The biggest negative, however, is Eli’s mother’s alcoholism, which often results in police visits and unpaid bills. When a judge orders their mother into rehab, Anna comes to court as “Aunt Lisa,” the girls’ temporary guardian. Their situation worsens, though, with unpaid rent and Anna disappearing for days with her boyfriend. When social services comes calling, the girls flee—but where can they go? Moon builds a compelling picture of an impoverished family struggling with hereditary alcoholism. Coping with their mother’s disease and its consequences has turned both girls into expert liars who struggle to trust anyone, and make poor decisions as a result—though both also find help and hope at Alateen. The world is well-built and the characters are distinct and believable, though Eli’s penchant for snooping should have been introduced earlier. Also, the encounter with Anna’s birth father feels like a wasted opportunity and adds little to the story.
VERDICT This realistic portrayal of a family in crisis sugarcoats nothing, but offers conditional hope for the future.

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