From School Library Journal
Grade 7–10—Cynnie's mother drowns her problems in alcohol and inappropriate men, leaving the 13-year-old to care for her 3-year-old brother, Bill. He has Down syndrome, and he is the one bright spot in her life. When her mother sends him to live with his grandparents, Cynnie is shattered. To cover up her pain, she tries her first drink and is soon drinking daily in the tree house she built with neighborhood boys. One of them, Snake, makes awkward attempts at friendship, but she rejects them. When he offers to help her run away with Bill, though, she jumps at the chance. Her drinking gets in the way, however, and she nearly kills all of them in a car accident. Horribly ashamed, and separated even further from her brother, she is required to go to court-ordered AA meetings. One woman, Pat, becomes her sponsor and, eventually, mother figure. She helps Cynnie to make amends with the people she's hurt and learn to forgive herself. Once she does this, she can reach out to those who had wanted to help her all along. Hyde illustrates well how quickly a person can fall into the same patterns that they abhor in others, or choose a different path. Cynnie's internal conflict between wanting to be seen by those around her and trying to disappear, either into her tree house or alcohol, is very well drawn. Troubled teens may be able to find some of themselves in her. This is a heavy novel, and will probably require some pushing, but it is a good discussion starter.—Stephanie L. Petruso, Anne Arundel County Public Library, Odenton, MD
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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 behavior could develop so quickly, and the second half of the book occasionally reads like an after-school special about "working the program," 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
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