It has been a long and difficult year for the Decker family, especially for sixteen-year-old Brooke. Her grades have plummeted. She deliberately breaks curfew. She makes out with boys she hardly knows.
And now her father has totally lost it. When Tim Decker signs up his family of three to be contestants on a Hollywood reality show, Brooke’s life turns upside down. The place: The North Carolina backcountry. The year: 1861.
Brooke is forced to trade in her Victoria’s Secret bra for a rib-cracking corset, her comfy jeans for an ugly farm dress, and her private bathroom for an outhouse. Television cameras will follow her every move as she lives the grueling life of a mid-nineteenth-century farm girl: milking a cow, churning butter, fetching water countless times a day, and riding in a horse-drawn wagon along a rutted road to spend pennies in town.
This will be Brooke’s life for four awful months. Unless, of course, she breaks the rules and the producers kick her off the show…
Other families are scattered throughout Sweet Sugar Gap. The snotty Prudence Miller soon becomes Brooke’s rival. Wendell Murphy, who works at the local mercantile, is instantly smitten with Brooke—but also makes her suspicious. Does the only cute boy in town really like her, or is he merely showing off for the cameras?
Brooke Decker may just have to find a way to make it in the backcountry, leaving behind the modern frills she can’t live without. But can a young girl’s wishful heart surrender to a time and place she believes she can never call home?
After her terminally ill mother dies, 16-year-old Brooke Decker is happy to play the role of partying slacker given the tough, responsibility-filled year she has had. Her father isn't, though, and signs up the family for a reality TV show to be filmed in the North Carolina backwoods. The Deckers must spend four months living as though the year is 1861, and if they break character or sneak in any contraband, they'll be kicked out. As the family begins its adventure, not even a cute boy named Wendell can stop Brooke from plotting a way to be sent home. Brooke's voice feels authentic as she struggles to reconnect with her fractured family, and Manning's historical research shows as the Deckers learn to plant crops, cook over a fire, and use an outhouse (there's more to it than one might think). Conversely, the show's structure is never explained fully, and certain plot points associated with it become distracting as they don't make sense until the end. Even so, Manning (Gaga) has created an entertaining novel with realistic characters readers should find it easy to invest in. Ages 14 up. (BookLife)