Author: Kevin Wilson
Reviewed by: Amelia Valasek, Library Manager
Who should read this: Anyone who’s in the mood for a laugh-out-loud, feel-good book with a bit of human combustion thrown in for good measure.
Personal impression: I thoroughly enjoyed this one. I should point out that I did “read” this as an audio book, so had the benefit of an excellent voice actor who added a lot of texture to the narrator’s story. I cant say if this also shines through in the written text, but I imagine it would.
Review: This book is narrated in first person by our protagonist, Lillian Breaker. She’s had a rough go of things most of her life, with a careless and selfish mom, a dad that was never in the picture, and not much in the way of prospects. As a teenager, Lillian’s higher-than average intelligence lands her a scholarship spot at a prestigious boarding school. However, her dreams for a better future are dashed when she takes the fall for her best friend, Madison, and gets booted back to her less-than-ideal public school. As a result, Lilian decides that its easiest to just float through life without any real ambition or drive. Years later she is contacted by her old friend Madison who has a favor to ask: will Lilian play nanny to Madison’s two step children for the summer? There’s a catch though – these children catch on fire when they get upset.
If I seem less than forthcoming with the specific plot logistics that bring Lilian and Madison back together, it’s because those logistics aren’t really the main focus of the story. And as odd as it might seem, the fact that Madison’s step children spontaneously combust isn’t really the main focus of the story either. This is a story about outcasts who find comfort and belonging in one another. Lillian’s narration, was for me, the best part of the book. It is by turns dryly sardonic, self deprecating, and surprisingly sensitive. Her journey is both very small, and very big, and totally normal, and completely absurd. But at the heart of it all is a story about love, forgiveness, and hope. And of course, it’s laugh out loud funny, which I think is something most people could use in these stressful days of global pandemics and social upheaval. The perfect book for a stressful year.