We’ve heard how it takes a village to raise a child. In this book, it takes a screwed-up blended family to rescue one while doing some pretty meaningful healing in the process. Nick’s not over her mother’s death and struggles to hold on to good moments. Luna, her slightly older step-sister deals with her parents’ divorce by rebelling and doing risky stuff with boys to try and find happiness. While the two of them are pretty snarky to each other, it’s pretty easy to read between the lines and know they get emotional support from the process. Luna’s dad is an alcoholic con artist who has been promising different outcomes, but delivering the same disappointing results for ages.
When Nick’s dad married Luna’s mother, they uprooted the girls, moving them to Coquina Bay after selling the record store that was home to Nick where she was surrounded by classic rock and a happy cat. There was little or no thought to what the girls were leaving behind. As if being uprooted wasn’t bad enough, the newlyweds are rehabbing a decrepit place, hoping to turn it into a B&B. All Nick sees is her college money courtesy of Mom’s life insurance evaporating into the project.
When the stepsisters go to see a friend do her alligator act at a nearby park, Nick can’t help but notice a really creepy man who’s with a girl about her age. He touches her in inappropriate ways and she’s dressed as though she’s much older, not to mention acting like a zombie. It takes Nick a while to get Luna on board with her suspicion that the girl isn’t with this creep willingly, but once she does, things get really interesting.
By the time the story reaches its conclusion, Luna’s dad has finally come through, Nick’s grandmother has gotten in the act and the stepparents have come up for air and discovered that the girls might be more mature and responsible than they are.
This is not only a good YA mystery, but a good story for teens who have experienced family loss or dysfunction. It’s a smooth read with a cast of intriguing characters.
Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS, July 2016.