Annabelle has a secret . . . a secret so big she won't allow friends within five miles of her home. Her mom collects things. Their house is overflowing with stuff. It gives Annabelle's sister nightmares, her brother spends as much time as he can at friends' houses, and her dad buries himself in his work.
So when a stack of newspapers falls on Annabelle's sister, it sparks a catastrophic fight between their parents--one that might tear them all apart--and Annabelle starts to think that things at home finally need to change.
Is it possible for her to clean up the family's mess? Or are they really, truly broken?
Mary E. Lambert's moving and heart-breakingly funny debut novel about the things we hold dear--and the things we let go--will resonate with anyone whose life has ever felt just a little too messy.
Lambert's gutsy and affecting first novel tackles a topic not frequently discussed in middle grade fiction: living with a parent who's a hoarder. At 12, Annabelle copes with her mother's obsession with her "collections" old newspapers, milk jugs, canned vegetables that are stacked throughout the house. Annabelle largely shoulders the burden alone: her father leaves on a business trip, her teenage brother routinely escapes to friends' houses, and her younger sister's nightmares about death-by-hoarding are making her physically ill. Intensifying Annabelle's isolation is her "Five-Mile-Radius Rule," which she uses to keep friends at a distance. Her caustic, self-protecting humor will endear her to readers: after her grandmother arrives to spearhead a de-cluttering effort, Annabelle observes, "Rearranging the mess does not a cleanup make." She also adds humor to a strained family game night, narrating the doomed evening as an Elizabethan tragedy. A believably hopeful ending reinforces the story's call to face problems rather than hide or run from them, and to ask for help from others especially family. Ages 8 12.