Toby Malone looks up to his brother Jake. Everyone does. He is the cool one, the one who is good at baseball. Even Mr. Furry, the unfortunately named family cat, seems to prefer him to everyone else. Toby and Jake and their little brother have always had an easy, jostling friendship, in which it is them against the rest of the world. But ever since Toby`s father left, things have been off balance. Toby`s mother seems deflated and resigned. And his little brother is exhibiting odd signs of stress. Toby struggles to keep his family together even as things are falling apart. Despite his efforts, though, Jake is drifting farther and farther away, and Toby knows it is because he is becoming increasingly dependent on drugs. Toby tries to cover up for Jake, to spare his mother yet another disappointment. But his attempts to protect Jake and his mother backfire, only adding to the growing tension between the brothers+until Jake finally goes much too far. With great warmth and wry humor, Patricia McCormick draws a portrait of a typical family that is struggling to reconnect after a crisis.
The author of Cut writes a second absorbing novel exploring the issue of an adolescent's self-destructive behavior. Thirteen-year-old Toby Malone, who narrates, watches in despair as his older brother, once a star athlete, travels down a path of ruin, becoming increasingly involved with drugs. Not wanting to upset his recently divorced mother, who is already overwhelmed with problems, Toby remains silent about Jake's addiction, and in effect becomes his brother's "keeper," making excuses for Jake when he disappears into the night and comes home stoned. When Jake's friends make a mess in the house, Toby cleans it up, and when Jake quits the baseball team, Toby doesn't tell. The one time Toby attempts to take control of Jake's problem by flushing a bag of marijuana down the toilet, Jake retaliates by stealing and selling Toby's most prized possession. Tension mounts as Jake's activities get wilder and more dangerous, inevitably causing emotional pain for everyone in the family. Throughout the book, McCormick honestly and dramatically expresses Toby's frantic desire to restore normalcy in his broken home. She credibly develops a plot that demonstrates why playing the role of enabler ultimately does more harm than good, and invites reflective thought and meaningful discussion. Ages 10-up.