For some reason, perhaps my disappointingly secure and loving upbringing, I have a thing for stories about dysfunctional families. If it comes down to a choice between a teenager with a mythical destiny and a teenager with a crushing sense of responsibility and loyalty to his or her family, well, I'll skip the destiny and go straight for the good stuff. All the better if that teenager really is the only one holding things together (if anyone ever writes a grown-up version of the Boxcar Children, I will devour it).
Chase "Everboy" McGill, as he's nicknamed by a certain unfavorite character, is the second of four children, and even in the first summer of the book, at age 15, he's in over his head. The older brother he idolizes, Noah, can't even show up at Chase's birthday; his eleven-year-old sister Claudia alternates between translating for their Deaf younger brother Gideon and trying to provoke police officers into charging her with public indecency (that's her on the cover of the book, by the way).
There's a girl, Melinda, because the neatest way to understand a teenage boy's emotions toward his family is to see them performed with someone else. Any romance, though, is secondary to the sweeping and painful and real story of Chase's family, from his imperfect, loving parents to his siblings, each of which is clearly the star of his or her own story. Melinda calls him Everboy, but he's a person with too much to carry, trying to cling to whatever of his childhood remains.
At its heart, this book is like all the best young adult fiction - it's about learning how to grow up, about the unfairness of shouldering a burden that shouldn't be yours in the first place, about stepping in because someone else can't or won't. Naturally, it's also clever and funny and heartbreaking, because why should the author limit herself to perfectly capturing adolescence on the page? Go get yourself a copy - this book sticks with you, such that I'm still turning it over in my mind more than a week after reading it.
Buy the book at Powell's or your local bookstore, show it some love on Goodreads, and check out Hannah Moskowitz's blog.