From School Library Journal
Grade 6–9—Three orphaned teenage siblings, separated by the tragic supposed patricide of their father by their two-year-old brother, reunite a year later to save this same brother from the clutches of their evil aunt, who wants to sell them out on a tell-all television show. The plot involves a lot of aimless meandering around their small Connecticut town, the characters are unremarkable, and the title, of course, gives away the mystery, but, as with all of Cooney's novels, the joy is in readers being more clued in than the hapless characters. Thus every chapter, narrated alternately by each sibling, ends with a successful degree of suspense. Contemporary technology—texting, cell phone videos, digital photography, online bank accounts—plays a weighty role; initially the reliance upon them aids each character's unhealthy distance from one another, but by the conclusion, it has become the link between them, creating laughably miraculous resolutions at every turn. A Christian theme pervades as well, as the siblings each question their relationship with God as well as with one another, and inevitably resolve both issues simultaneously. Fans of previous Cooney offerings will enjoy this, but most others can pass on it.—Rhona Campbell, Washington, DC Public Library
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First Jack Fountain’s mother dies of cancer after postponing treatment so her baby, Tris, could be born. Then his father is run over after two-year-old Tris accidentally moves the parking brake. Shortly after their father’s death, Jack’s sisters bail—Smithy to boarding school and Madison to her godparents’ home. But Jack stays at home to watch over Tris, knowing that “Aunt” Cheryl, now ensconced in the family home, is hardly a mother figure. She then proves it by selling the Fountains’ tragic story as a reality TV show. On their father’s birthday, the girls are drawn home, and the siblings must put aside their hostilities to salvage their family and save their baby brother. There are many holes in this story, starting with Cheryl’s ability to get custody, the unquestioning acceptance of Tris’ ability to move the brake, and the TV producer’s right to film without his subjects’ permission. Moreover, the title gives away the twist. Despite all this, readers will be enthralled. This isn’t about inconsistencies; it’s about creepy (if one-dimensional) villains, page-turning action, and kids taking charge. Grades 7-10. --Ilene Cooper
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