by Rachel Cohn
Cohn does for Sydney, Australia, what she did for Los Angeles and Manhattan in Gingerbread, while once again creating a funny and feisty narrator caught in the middle of a complicated family situation. Twelve-year-old Annabel calls her father Jack and her mother Angelina, and her lively voice keeps this story rolling along. When the seventh grader travels to Sydney for Christmas break to stay with Jack and his new family (aka "The Steps"), Annabel plans to "win my dad back" and escort him to New York. Her sadness translates into brattiness, especially toward Lucy, her stepsister who's also 12, but Annabel occasionally lets her guard down (such as when she realizes that Lucy misses her real dad, too). Of course, when Annabel finally asks her father to return, he explains why he cannot. Just then, Angelina phones to tell her she's getting married, creating a whole new set of Steps. Annabel's feelings will be easy for readers to connect with (e.g., "Jack... looked taller, broader, more confident. Like he had found his place in the world. Without me," she says of her transplanted dad), and her plans for winning Jack back are credibly unclear. The conclusion, in which all of Annabel's family and Steps appear in Sydney for a big reconciliation, may be a bit tidy, but Annabel's hyperbolic tone makes nearly anything seem plausible. Readers will wait with bated breath for Cohn's next novel. Ages 8-12.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Annabel's parents, Angelina and Jack, met in New York City, fell in love, moved in together, had their daughter, and then, much later, became adults. Annabel's fresh and funny narration begins after Jack and Angelina no longer live together. In fact, he has moved to Australia, remarried, and started a new family. Angelina is involved with the divorced father of "the dorkiest kid in the whole of the seventh grade" in Annabel's school on Manhattan's Upper West Side. During Christmas break, the 12-year-old is sent to visit her father in Sydney. Her jealousy of the "steps," Lucy and Angus, gradually erodes as her understanding increases. When Lucy and Annabel run away to Melbourne to see Lucy's grandmother and her friends, the girls have a "moment"-that memorable, pivotal instant that changes relationships and sparks lasting friendships. In the end, Annabel realizes that both of her parents love her, and she begins to call them Mom and Dad. In spite of the confusing family configurations with the "bazillion stepbrothers, stepsisters and half siblings," the narrative is fast, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, and gradually reveals insight into families and individuals. Though Annabel uses contemporary references and present-day language, her concerns and emotional responses are timeless. Other characters, adults included, are well drawn, developed through interaction with Annabel and her own wry observations. A breezy, compelling, humorous glimpse of families trying to cope as they transform.-Maria B. Salvadore, District of Columbia Public Library
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.