The VanderZees seem like an average American family. Malcolm, a professor at a small Midwestern college, and Esme, a lapsed artist, are raising four kids in a chaotic but loving home. Yet in Lorna J. Cook's charming and wryly comic first novel, the individuals in this eccentric clan also dwell in richly imagined worlds of their own. Poised at the edge of adulthood, seventeen-year-old Suzen VanderZee feels herself to be on the verge of something extraordinary and aches for her future to begin. Fifteen-year-old Evan is bored with his small-town life and dreams of travel, while at the same time is mesmerized by Soci, the new girl at school. Hallie, perhaps the most secretive of the lot, spends hours in her room contemplating life with her pet rat, Cupcake. And Aimee, the youngest, is convinced that she can fly, after a sudden and frighteningly close brush with death.
As Suzen realizes a crush may be the start of a serious relationship and Evan considers running away with Soci, the author gracefully illustrates the exhilaration and anxiety the two teenagers experience as they teeter on the brink of adulthood. Narrated in refreshingly limpid prose, the small moments in this novel have huge significance and the tiniest gestures speak volumes. When Cook deftly reveals the emotional truths at the heart of the story, we see that there are secrets in the VanderZee family, and as their implications are realized, we are pulled deep into the heart of this loving and very real group of people. By the end of this skillfully crafted story, we share their joys, sorrows, and hopes. Cook describes the life of one "typical" family with immense tenderness and understanding.