Lainey Pike can tell you everything you need to know about the people in her family just by letting you know how they died. Her reckless stepfather drove his motorcycle off the highway and caused the biggest traffic jam in years. Her long-suffering grandmother lived through cancer and a heart attack before finally succumbing to a stroke. And Lainey's motherwell, Lainey's mother hanged herself in the basement just days after Lainey's high school graduation.
Now Lainey's five-year-old brother is an orphan and her estranged older sister is moving back home to be his guardian. Meanwhile, Lainey's boyfriend is thinking about having a family of their own, and her best friends are always asking the wrong sorts of questions and giving advice Lainey doesn't want to hear. As she tries to pull away from everything familiar, Lainey meets an intriguing new guy who, through a series of Slurpees, burgers, and snowballs, helps her to make peace with a parent she never understood.
Lainey has just graduated from high school when she finds out that her mother has committed suicide. Her older stepsister, Vallery, is a virtual stranger when she shows up to take custody of Lainey's five-year-old adopted brother, Collin, who has behavioral problems. Lainey's long-term boyfriend, Riley, tries to support her, but her repressed anger leads her to break up with him on her 18th birthday so she can pursue a relationship with a 21-year-old she meets on a late-night run to 7-Eleven. Lainey and Vallery settle into raising Collin together as Lainey begins to work out her feelings about her mother, Riley, and her father, who wants to be there for her. The story could have easily lapsed into melodrama (Lainey's stepfather and grandmother have also recently died), but debut novelist Hoxter gives a masterful portrayal of the effects of grief. The blue-collar setting is impeccably realized, from Lainey's busted Grand Am to her job at a mall kiosk, adding up to a portrait of a complex and relatable main character whose growth feels authentic and earned. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)