Just Do This One Thing for Me

Dutton. Aug. 2023. 320p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780593530337.
Gr 8 Up–Eldest daughter and the most functional member of her household, Drew is used to picking up her mom Heidi’s slack for the sake of Carna and Lock, her younger siblings. It’s frustrating but not all that surprising when Heidi decides to abscond to Mexico to see a Justin Timberlake concert with little thought of school, food, or any of the other requirements of caring for children. But Heidi never makes it to Mexico, and when Drew and Carna discover her body in the shed, alerting anyone who might force them to be separated is obviously the last resort. The sisters know that time will run out, and their desperate, impossible situation just keeps getting worse as the weather warms up, the federal agent on Heidi’s trail for fraud is circling closer and closer, and most frustrating of all, Drew (and her computer) begin to be haunted by Heidi’s ghost. The family’s income comes from reviewing products online, another job Drew picks up when her mother dies, and the continual inclusion of pieces of these reviews gives buoyancy to a somewhat dark narrative. Drew’s boyfriend feels like a bit of an afterthought; the siblings-against-the-world vibes are strong and moments of shared emotion between them are some of the highlights of the story. Though the dead body in the shed may be unrealistic, the universality of teens needing to make adult decisions they are ill-equipped to handle feels exceedingly real.
VERDICT A witty, off-beat, and strangely charming look at just how far an eldest child will go to keep their younger siblings together.

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