The Snowball Effect

Holly Nicole Hoxter
BA, 2003
HarperCollins, 2003

Eighteen-year-old Lainey has a lot to deal with: her mother’s recent suicide, caring for her behaviorally challenging five-year-old adopted brother, the reappearance of her long-alienated older sister, and a too-perfect boyfriend who wants her to express her emotions. While this could make for a snowballing plotline of issues, Hoxter instead carefully balances real problems and creates a compelling character who develops some emotional maturity even as she gives up the independence she values. Without overexplaining, the author allows the reader access to Lainey’s motivations and offers indications of when she might be a less than entirely reliable narrator. The teen characters are fully developed, while the relative flatness of the adults can be attributed to the story being told from Lainey’s viewpoint. Whether teen readers share any of Lainey’s specific issues or not, they will appreciate the realism of her approach and response to conflicting demands. Grades 8-10. --Francisca Goldsmith