In this follow-up novel to Losing Forever, Jes Miner-Cooper’s life is full of excitement, growth, and love even as she struggles to deal with the death of her little sister Alberta, her mother’s new marriage to Cal, and her know-it-all stepsister Angela. Taking on the eleventh grade as a “cautious optimist,” Jes enrolls in Mr. Truelove’s Psychology 101 course hoping to learn about the “path of optimism and hopefulness” and how to exist in a blended family.
Jes’s mom conceives unexpectedly and everyone, even her ex-husband, slowly and realistically comes to accept that a new member of the family will arrive soon. In a well-written scene, the author convincingly depicts the various emotions when Jes’s father is left out of an important moment in her life, the birth of a new sibling.
Teens will appreciate Jes’s realization that her appreciation of long-time neighbor Sam is changing: “He smiled. I melted. And then he morphed into cute/hot boy and I panicked.” It takes her best friend Dell, who has dangerous relationship problems of her own, to help her come to her senses and express her true feelings to Sam.
Humor is definitely one of the strengths of this novel. Readers will chuckle as an often befuddled, but witty, Jes uses banter to help her cope with difficult situations. When Jes and Angela are confronted about borrowing (without permission) their parents’ car and drinking beer, Jes says, “That’s when I caved. Just started spewing information like somebody dialed 411 and I was the only operator left on earth.” The scene in the delivery room is also funny and memorable. After months of expecting a baby brother, Jes is the only one bold enough to ask (in absolute horror), “Where is the penis?”
The author, who graduated from the University of British Columbia with a bachelor’s in English literature, has written several award-winning young adult books, including Janey’s Girl, which was named an ALA Best Book for young adults and was nominated for a Governor General’s Award. The Isabel Factor earned a Red Maple Award nomination. Organized by seasons, the premise of this novel is a life lesson that will cause readers to self-reflect: the unpredictability of life, especially in matters of love, stamps everything “for now,” and failure to realize this limits mobility and risk-taking.