The characters and their realistic, sometimes problematic actions are what make this book. Margery is a great foster parent-- not perfect, but firm and understanding. Fred is not trying to be overly difficult but often makes bad decisions as a reaction to her circumstances. The friendship with Delia is a good one, and Toby's plight is a good parallel to Fred's own. This is the sort of sad book students like, especially since it involves a child their age making very poor decisions but being supported by caring adults. I enjoyed this a lot.
Sensitive readers should know that Delia had a brother who drowned, and her parents didn't really speak to Delia for a year. Also, dog lovers need to be warned that Toby gets hit by a car but lives.