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by Gayle Pearson

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-689-82579-X
Publisher: Atheneum

Pearson (The Secret Box, 1997, etc.) leaves nothing between the lines in this patchy tale of a perfect family that turns out to be anything but. To Maddie, the vivacious, unconventional McBeans have always made her own Illinois family look dull, and so, a year and a half after their move to California, she looks forward eagerly to a two-week stay with them. She finds them as welcoming as ever—more so, as her friend Beanie’s older brother Buddy, formerly a bully of the worst sort, gives her a warm hello. Beanie, on the other hand, seems more of a wimp than ever, moody, self-deprecating, and clumsy. Initially, Maddie finds Buddy’s recklessness more exciting than scary, and discounts Beanie’s warnings, but his true colors come out, in a contrived way, during a beach party. Refusing, as always, to see what Buddy is really like, the McBean parents turn on Maddie; she cuts her visit short and flies home, newly appreciative of her own staid but reliable parents, and meditating on the raw deal both Beanie and Buddy have gotten from theirs. Readers will have trouble accepting both Maddie’s friendship, characterized more by dissension than commonalities, with Beanie, and her attraction to the so obviously dysfunctional McBean family in general, but the point that fair surface can hide foul heart is strongly, unflinchingly driven home. (Fiction. 10-13)