Declan, a teenager living in a small town in Quebec, has some serious family issues: His parents are divorced and he hasn’t seen his dad in five years, and his older brother Seamus is a mixed-up bully who hangs around with a bad crowd. Meanwhile, Declan has been doing poorly in school. After having a total of twenty-one detentions, Declan is forced by his high school to work with a peer tutor.
Leah, the tutor Declan is set up with, lives with her parents and her “Bubby,” her grandmother, who is a survivor of Theresienstadt. Much to his surprise, Declan starts to enjoy spending time with Leah and her grandmother, who shares with Declan her experiences during World War II. The tutoring improves his performance in school, and Declan starts to develop a relationship with Leah.
One day, Declan drops by his older sister Kate’s place to see her and her young daughter, Mandy, and discovers his dad visiting them. Unbeknownst to Declan, Kate had reestablished a relationship with their father. We discover that Declan’s father is gay and that the divorce was precipitated by his affair with a man. Slowly, Declan starts to understand his father better and gets over his homophobia. He also begins to understand why his brother, Seamus, has been acting out since the divorce.
This debut novel is written in first person, which heightens the story’s immediacy. The characters are realistic and sympathetic. The book contains strong language and depicts pot smoking, but the story rings true and the reader roots for Declan as he becomes more mature. Readers ages 13 and up will enjoy this story of a boy who faces his problems with the help of family and friends.