To all the kids out there that have written reviews proclaiming that you hate this book, I can only suppose that you're the type of kid that would hate just about any book that you're made to read for school. And I do understand that. I absolutely loved Jane Eyre until this one professor in college ruined it for me. So I say to you...try reading this one again later, with an open mind. You just might like it.
Told from the point of view of Carl Matt (and a mat is just what he's been all his life), the story opens with the disappearance of their mother. That leaves Carl and his younger brother Harley in the care of their sister Sarah. When it's way past time for his mother to have returned from one of her "holidays," Sarah decides to hightail it to Europe and leave her brothers with their Aunt Beryl in Wattle Beach.
Sarah is only 19, but this marks the second time in the book that Carl is abandoned.
Wattle Beach isn't much of an improvement in their situation. Aunt Beryl is proof of that old saw about not being able to choose your family. She even pushes Carl to quit school to help pay for his and Harley's upkeep.
Carl does find work with the Duncan's, even though his family's history in Wattle Beach works against him. In fact, he finds a sense of family with them that he's never had before.
Much is made of Carl's size and his inability to connect with others because of his fear of being rejected and abandoned. And considering all the things that have happened to him and Harley, it's a small wonder. By the end of the book, Carl finds the courage to grasp some happiness for himself and for Harley as well.
I've left a lot out of this review - Carl's blossoming romance with Justine, Carl standing up to the local popular/bad guy, Harley turning from a troubled youngster to a kid who likes to bake cakes, Skip & Joy Duncan letting go of the past...there's lots going on. This is a quiet story full of the little things that make us human and you'll feel more human for having read it.
Recommended for ages 12 and up, especially if you're not reading it for school.