From School Library Journal
Grade 9 Up—Having lost her father to divorce and her grandmother to death, when 17-year-old Lainey loses her mother to suicide it's not a big deal. Really. But now her stable long-term boyfriend seems too perfect. And there's the unexpected arrival of her long-lost half-sister taking her mom's place as head-of-house and guardian to their troubled five-year-old brother. And then there's the question of money, always an issue in their blue-collar lives, but especially important in this summer following her high school graduation. Each thing adds a grimy layer to the growing "snowball" inside her. Lainey's measured voice narrates unemotionally, only occasionally changing tones to allow a peek at the true struggle to find herself beneath the surface. Overall, the mood of this novel is bleak: the palpable feel of this mall-oriented, dull Baltimorean suburb combines with Lainey's bland negativity to create a long slog. Also pervasive is the feeling that the supportive characters, who are well drawn but somehow not very realistic, lack adequate motivation for their actions.—Rhona Campbell, Washington, DC Public Library
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Eighteen-year-old Lainey has a lot to deal with: her mother’s recent suicide, caring for her behaviorally challenging five-year-old adopted brother, the reappearance of her long-alienated older sister, and a too-perfect boyfriend who wants her to express her emotions. While this could make for a snowballing plotline of issues, Hoxter instead carefully balances real problems and creates a compelling character who develops some emotional maturity even as she gives up the independence she values. Without overexplaining, the author allows the reader access to Lainey’s motivations and offers indications of when she might be a less than entirely reliable narrator. The teen characters are fully developed, while the relative flatness of the adults can be attributed to the story being told from Lainey’s viewpoint. Whether teen readers share any of Lainey’s specific issues or not, they will appreciate the realism of her approach and response to conflicting demands. Grades 8-10. --Francisca Goldsmith