Family Ties

144p. Random/Wendy Lamb Bks. Jul. 2014. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9780385373807; lib. ed. $15.99. ISBN 9780385373814; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780385373821. LC 2013025829.
Gr 5–8—Middle schooler and self-described "family man" Kevin Spencer returns in another humorous tale. This time, he schemes to bring his dysfunctional family closer together by reuniting his father with his father's recently estranged, irresponsible brother. But when Uncle Will arrives with his new wife; her five-year-old pyromaniac son; and their large, incontinent dog, Kevin suggests that the family host a backyard second wedding for the newlyweds for the following weekend. The ceremony soon involves two couples with the arrival of more of Kevin's wacky relatives, and the lead character is tasked with planning two weddings in less than one week. Paulsen crafts a distinct narrative voice for his quick-witted protagonist, who is funny, wry, and relatable, making this a good recommendation for reluctant readers. Despite the eccentricity of his family, Kevin takes his role as straight man in stride, eagerly welcoming his zany relatives into his home while offering plenty of deadpan commentary about them in his narration. While his adoration of his girlfriend Tina, albeit comical, sometimes comes off as a little too over-the-top, his budding friendship with ambitious classmate Katie is well developed as are the strengthening bonds among his family members. The Spencers may not be a conventionally perfect family, but by the end of the novel it is clear that, despite their oddball antics, they are a loving one. Fans of the series and new readers will enjoy this offering.—Laura J. Giunta, Garden City Public Library, NY
The fifth book (following Vote) about now fourteen-year-old Kevin Spencer is funny and off-beat. He continues to see life through his self-centered lens, but, in a bid to impress the beautiful Tina, Kevin volunteers to plan his uncle's wedding. The plot is a bit over-the-top, but since Kevin is not an entirely reliable narrator, readers won't expect logic.

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