Candice Phee isn't a typical twelve-year-old girl. She has more than her fair share of quirks, but she also has the very best of intentions and an unwavering determination to make sure everyone around her is happy—which is no easy feat when dealing with a pet fish with an identity crisis, a friend who believes he came from another dimension, an age-old family feud, and a sick mom. But she is on a mission. Her methods might be unique, but Candice will do whatever it takes to restore order to her world and make sure everyone is absolutely, categorically happy again.
In a moving story first published in Australia, Jonsberg (Dreamrider) handles painful topics with honesty and humor. When 12-year-old Candice gets a school assignment to write an alphabetically organized essay about something that happened in her past, she turns it into a book covering her entire life. Candice's literal-mindedness and social awkwardness are intrinsic to her personality. "I can't go out in the sun unless I use cream with a sun protection factor of one zillion. Please understand that I am deliberately exaggerating for rhetorical effect," Candice explains in one of several unanswered letters to an American pen pal. When new student Douglas tells her he's from another dimension, Candice can almost understand his quest to return "home" because she, too, has a quest: to make her family happy again. Candice's mother suffers from depression, her father had a falling out with Candice's uncle, and all of them are still reeling from the death of Candice's baby sister. Jonsberg has created a memorable heroine in Candice, whose determined attempts to heal her family and understand her place in the world will stick with readers. Ages 10 up.