Fifteen-year old David sometimes feels invisible to his parents. His sister Ivy has multiple disabilities, and no matter what’s happening in David’s life, Ivy’s needs come first. Even though Ivy is eleven years old, she needs constant supervision, wears diapers, and often embarrasses David in public. Sometimes she scares off his friends too, but no matter what, David loves his sister. She’s always thrilled to see him, yelling his name “Ga-beg” and giving him slobbery kisses.
When a new girl, Hannah, moves in across the street, David starts to have feelings for her. And when Hannah meets his family, those feelings become even stronger. David has finally met someone who understands him, and more importantly, she isn’t uncomfortable being around Ivy.
Everything changes when they go to the cottage, and Ivy has an accident while her father is looking after her. Suddenly, David is questioning his father’s role and wondering what really happened to Ivy. Could he really be responsible for the accident?
For such a little book, this novel really tackles a big topic, and I admire how sensitive and honest Kathy Stinson‘s writing is. Although I have never lived with mentally challenged children or adults, I have worked with some, in group home settings. Reading this book brought back many memories of those children, and I feel the author created very authentic characters. I appreciated David’s honesty in explaining how frustrating it was to live with Ivy at times. Sometimes he just wanted his parents to himself. And he often felt they only saw him as a helper for Ivy.
Many people don’t understand disabilities unless they live with them. This story really gives you an idea about the complicated feelings a person can have. The author expressed this very well, especially through David: “Or was Ivy’s life tougher than I ever let myself believe? How do you weigh crappy stuff like seizures and physio and people hardly ever understanding you, up against giggles and grins and just being happy with birds and pretty flowers and your sunhat and your turquoise bathing suit? How can anyone know whether someone else's life is worth living or not, especially if that someone can’t tell you about it?”
After the accident, David’s family is turned upside-down. David’s anger towards his father is compounded by the fact that Hannah doesn’t believe David, when he tells her what really happened. Hannah has her own issues, and doesn’t want to see David’s father in a negative light. The ending is perfect. It’s just real life. No tidy resolution, and lots to keep thinking about.
I loved this book!