Rooster has always called Kady his madrina, his godmother. Born in Cuba and brain-damaged at birth, Rooster thinks Kady can protect him from all harm. But 15-year-old Kady doesn't want to be looking out for Rooster anymore. And she doesn't want to live in a tiny house, wear tacky clothes, or get stuck with endless chores on her family's ever struggling citrus farm. She wants to be with her new boyfriend, Jon, and his golden gang, people with money to burn and all the time in the world to indulge themselves. She doesn't realize, until tragedy strikes, just how much her budding romance costs her.
Set in the bell-bottomed and tie-dyed late 1960s, this richly textured novel has moments of high humor, memorable characters, and resonant dialogue.
"Gr. 7-12. A teenager's struggle with family, class, and the environment is harsh and personal, bursting out of the pages of this rich first novel. The setting is rural central Florida in the late 1960s, where Kady, 15, lives a hardscrabble life in a tiny house, helping her dad start an orange grove. Their neighbors are a Cuban refugee family with a brain-damaged son, Rooster, who idolizes Kady and follows her everywhere. When Kady falls for a rich boy, she lies to her parents and hangs out with the privileged hippy crowd, getting high on marijuana "brownies" and loving it. Then one night Rooster follows her, eats a brownie, "flies" off a tree, and injures himself badly. There's too much going on in the story and the metaphors are sometimes forced, but both the growing trees and the struggling families are drawn with hard truth. Weaver is honest about how enticing it is for Kady to go out with the rich kids, how dreamy it is to be stoned, how Rooster is a nuisance and an embarrassment. Kady knows her mother doesn't love her: is Mama jealous because Kady now has a somewhat settled home, whereas Mama has been a migrant worker most of her life? The final section about trying to save Papa's orange trees from an untimely frost seems patched onto an already long novel, but it is a graphic and moving climax. Readers will recognize how you can love a garden, even one tree, and help it grow, and find your life in its flowering and fall. --Hazel Rochman"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review:
"Set in the Vietnam War era, this first novel adds some curves to the age-old theme of a teenage girl falling for the wrong boy. Fifteen-year-old Kady Palmer, who narrates the tale, wishes she could live in a house as grand and well-ordered as her prized Victorian doll house. Instead, she lives with her parents, three siblings and grandmother in an orange grove in a tin-roofed, aqua blue "hovel." Her next-door neighbors, the Rosadas, are Cuban refugees. For years, Kady's only male companions have been Tony Rosada and his crazy 13-year-old brother, Rooster. But all that changes when rich, popular Jon wants Kady for his girlfriend. Seduced by Jon's good looks and expensive gifts, Kady is floating on cloud nine until a devastating accident for which she is partially responsible brings her crashing down to earth. Weaver offers a detailed picture of late 1960s Florida while contrasting the differences between Kady's two worlds, that of her impoverished parents and her carefree, spoiled boyfriend. Though some awkward transitions and overblown passages (e.g., "I could feel his sadness by the way his face tilted back as if to meet a wind that was no longer there") mar the pacing, the crossing of these worlds causes a friction readers will not soon forget. Ages 12-up. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved"
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved