Writing with the same warmth and humor that characterized her earliest novels (the Al Capsella series), Clarke introduces a new cast of endearingly eccentric characters who are drawn together to enjoy "one whole and perfect day." Seventeen-year-old Lily, the youngest, most "sensible" member of the Samson clan, has well-founded misgivings about the upcoming 80th birthday party for Pop, her grandfather. She is sure something will go wrong (as it always does) when her unpredictable relatives unite, still she hopes for the "perfect day" of the book's title. Pop himself is having a feud with Lily's shiftless brother Lonnie, and has even threatened him with an ax, causing Lonnie to leave home and move into an apartment. Pop's wife, Nan, who is as soft as Pop is gruff, might be considered normal were it not for her invisible best friend, Sef. Then there's Lily's psychologist mother, who works in an adult day-care center and is always bringing home "old people whose care-giver children were quite desperate for a little break." While the novel mainly focuses on Lily's exasperation with her family's peculiarities, the third-person narrative shifts among other characters' points of view, which reveal old resentments as well as their mutual affections, affections that prove to be more deep-rooted than grudges. Filled with surprising turns of events and serendipitous encounters with strangers (who ultimately take on significance in the story), this book celebrates rekindled friendship and blossoming romance. Ages 12-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Lily's small family is falling apart. Her father disappeared long ago, and her mother puts taking care of her neglected elderly patients ahead of Lily and their house. Her only brother, Lonnie, moved away after being disowned by their grandfather for being unable to commit to a career, and her grandmother talks to an imaginary friend named Sef. As her grandfather's eightieth birthday approaches, Lily wants nothing more than for her family to forget their problems and grudges, and for once, have a perfect day together. Australian Clarke takes readers into the minds of each member of a very large cast of characters as they learn to be less judgmental and more forgiving. Unfortunately this lack of focus detracts from the story. Subplots about Lonnie's girlfriend and her parents, who also are not speaking; his girlfriend's roommate; and a homeless girl on the train keep readers from becoming attached to any one character. In addition, the reasons behind the family rifts seem insubstantial, and some major issues, such as the grandfather's racism, are solved too quickly and simply. It leads, through a number of improbable coincidences, to a large extended family reunion at Pop's birthday party. The novel can be suggested to younger teens or those looking for books with no objectionable content. Even with that criteria, though, there are more engrossing choices dealing with family relationships, such as books by Joan Bauer.
* "Filled with surprising turns of events and serendipitous encounters with strangers (who ultimately take on significance in the story), this book celebrates rekindled friendship and blossoming romance." --Publishers Weekly, starred review
* --Horn Book
"Reminiscent of Perkins' Criss Cross (BCCB 9/05), this Australian import will appeal especially to fans of strong character development and alternating points of view." --Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books