Libby's father is a drunk, her mum wouldn't know the meaning of home cooking if it landed in her lap and her brother's in trouble with the police - but none of this matters, as Zack is interested in HER, not her home-life. But just as things are working out on the boy front, Libby's family lose their home, and have to move in with their gran. Libby has to start a new school, give up her plans for Zack, and leave her best friend Nadine behind. But slowly she discovers there really IS a silver lining to every grey cloud - and there's plenty to fall in love with in her new home: her gran's cooking, the school outsider who stands up to the bullies, and the deadbeat boy who wants to show her the beauty of the desert...
In this uneven first novel, Libby's dysfunctional family suddenly moves from its Chatsworth, Calif., home to a trailer park in the desert town of Barstow, and the 14-year-old narrator must quickly say goodbye to her best friend and former life without getting a chance to have her dream "serious kiss" with popular Zach Nash. But in the hot desert, living next door to a grandmother she thought was dead, she begins to realize she isn't "so alone after all," especially when she makes a new offbeat best friend and boyfriend. Libby's family doesn't move until nearly halfway through the book, and readers may find the sudden change in plot direction jarring. Hogan creates some memorable moments, as Libby learns to enjoy life in the desert (eating burritos with a friend at a restaurant on the wrong side of the tracks, or learning about Barstow's plant life from another friend), but some of the author's flourishes, such as the trailer her grandmother lives in, which she converted into "one big, gleaming, air-conditioned kitchen," come across as bizarre. Because comical details such as these mix with serious themes, often addressed in a preachy tone (such as Libby's father's alcoholism: "Alcohol stole my father from me. It replaced him with a man who was mean to my mother and made our whole family feel like hiding"), readers may feel off-balance. Ages 12-up.