Gr 4-8-- Twelve-year-old Jeremy's life suddenly lurches ``out of step'' when his father remarries and he acquires a ``super-athlete'' stepsister, Allie. The story, set in Ontario, New York, opens with Jeremy imagining Allie drowning at Niagara Falls. His vivid imagination and talents as a writer are ignored by his father, who dotes on the girl. Hatred builds between the stepsiblings, who are the same age but very different people. There are some funny scenes, but the book also successfully explores Jeremy's feelings and grief over the death of his mother three years earlier. The climax comes when his father buys Allie a brand-new racing bike so that she can enter a triathalon. Jeremy decides to enter the race to beat her, but fails miserably. Finally, he and his father talk about their feelings and the changes in their family. This confrontation in the last chapter is a little abrupt. Talking things over may resolve some things--but maybe it won't, and readers will never know. Auch does a good job of exploring emotions and feelings that many children will identify with, but the minor characters lack depth. Allie is an unsympathetic character who seems perfect in Jeremy's father's eyes, and there is too little information about her background to understand her bossy, overconfident, super-competitive actions. In spite of its drawbacks, this is humorous, realistic, and poignant--and it's fast-paced enough to keep children turning the pages to keep in step with the story.--Janet M. Bair, Trumbull Library, CT
When his widowed father remarries, Jeremy is less than thrilled. His new stepmother tries to be nice but doesn't understand him. His little brother is so happy that he seems to be forgetting their real mom. But the worst problem is Allison, his new stepsister. Allison is a natural athlete of immense talent, who quickly becomes the star of the school soccer team and the apple of his father's eye. Jeremy is imaginative rather than athletic, but he goes out for soccer and the triathlon in a vain attempt to regain his father's attention. A new play-writing club gives him an outlet for his misery, and he transforms his family situation into a tale of an unhappy prince. Ultimately, however, it is by confronting his father that Jeremy succeeds in being reunited with him. Auch combines sensitivity with a light touch as she covers the turmoil of family change after bereavement. Jeremy is sympathetic but real in his mixture of grief, jealousy, determination, and ironic humor. Auch's prose is quick and supple, with lively dialogue and concise use of physical details to create a sense of place. Kids who've suffered the loss of a parent will find this book of particular interest, but all young readers will empathize with Jeremy's painful sibling rivalry.