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With an alcoholic mother whose boyfriends cycle through the house like clockwork, Cynnie, 13, has been the primary caretaker for Bill, her 3-year-old brother, who has Down syndrome. When her grandparents take Bill, Cynnie is devastated. She sneaks a beer for consolation and quickly becomes an alcoholic herself. Their potentially deadly mistake leads her to Alcoholics Anonymous. Although some readers will wonder how such destructive behaviour could develop so quickly, and the second half of the book occasionally reads like an after-school special about "working the programme," earnest Cynnie and her driving need to reconnect with her brother set this above the typical problem novel. Cynnie's love for and devotion to Bill are wholly believable, as are her attempts to snare a stable adult presence in her life. Secondary characters are multidimensional and well drawn. Despite Cynnie's relatively young age, her maturity and conflicts, as well as the book's engaging tone, will attract older teens craving stories of risk and redemption with a hopeful ending. Heather Booth
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Catherine Ryan Hyde is the author of several critically acclaimed young adult novels, including Becoming Chloe and Diary of a Witness, as well as the adult novels Pay It Forward and Chasing Windmills.