Emma feels like a total misfit at her school, and not just because she’s almost 6 feet tall at the age of 12. Unfortunately, her home life isn’t much better: her mother expects her to spend every afternoon minding the bead shop they own, cook for her grandfather, and take care of most of the household chores while she goes out on dates with a string of unsavory men. Emma doesn’t know anything about her father, or whether she even has any other family. For her birthday, her mom (who she calls by her first name, Donatella) tells her that she doesn’t have to go to school anymore because now she’ll be homeschooled by her grandfather (who spends most of his time snoozing with his fat, old bulldog farting on his lap). What she didn’t tell Emma is that she didn’t make any arrangements with the school, so Emma gets busted for truancy. Out of the blue, a special delivery letter arrives inviting Emma to the Freke family reunion at a campground in Wisconsin, and Donatella wants her to go. Of course, once Emma gets to Wisconsin she finds herself surrounded by people a lot like her. Well, at first they seem a lot like her. With the help of an estranged cousin, Fred, Emma proceeds to shake things up in the Freke family, and, in the end, meets her father. There are some really funny parts to the book (especially the first scene with Ms. Fiddle, the school psychologist, asking Emma to use a clock to rate her own popularity in comparison to the most popular girl at school.
“Um. One minute past twelve?: I said in a tiny voice, because I wasn’t sure if there was a correct answer or if she really had no idea how invisible I was in middle school. “We were not including minutes,” said Ms. Fiddle, arching one eyebrow so high it made that side of her mouth droop. “Just hours.”
There’s a lot about the story that I found too cliched, but it’s still an entertaining read. Review by Stacy Church