Isabella's parents are divorced, and she spends a lot of time transferring her life from her white mom's place to her black father's house. Both parents are in serious relationships with other people, and Isabella's father and his girlfriend make a lot more money than Isabella's mom, so her lifestyle changes a lot from week to week. She is a talented piano player preparing for a recital, using her electronic keyboard at her mom's house, and a baby grand piano at her dad's house. This book is focused on her challenges navigating the differences between parental expectations, and trying to figure out who she is.
This book includes some important subject matter that I am happy to find in middle grade fiction, including nontraditional family structures that are supportive of children (plot-driven mistakes notwithstanding). Racial identity and insensitivity is another important topic, as well as adjusting to divorce, and this is dealt with appropriately here for a middle grade audience instead of for young adults.
However, the treatment is more awkward than it needs to be throughout the story. Isabella is constantly complaining about shifting back and forth between households, and how hard it is for her. Some of the insensitive comments Isabella encounters are not very character-driven; they are more like comments from a list of what people shouldn't say. Isabella's internal monologue and her dialogue with friends does have a consistently authentic voice, and the plot surprise near the end seems out of the blue instead of a natural outcome. The cover is beautiful, although the ice cream analogy is not the most sophisticated idea for this content. There are some lovely, interesting details and unique events in this book, but those moments trade time with more predictable, repetitive or unrealistic incidents.
"According to some legal mucky-muck, both of my parents have to sign off on my staying with anyone else but one of them. There are permission forms and everything! What a pain!"
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