Monday, January 28, 2013

Happy Families by Tanita S. Davis YP FIC DAVIS

“That thing Tolstoy said about happy families got to me. Happy families all are alike-all of them are safe and confident that nothing on this earth can take that away from them. Just like we were before Dad’s little secret hit us like a wrecking ball.”

Ysabel and Justin are two twins on the right track.  Y is a rising art star and Justin has the Ivy League beckoning in his future, but when their dad’s secret life is revealed the ground opens under them and swallows them whole.  Both lose friends and bury themselves to hide from the confusion, guilt, and shame.  When they are forced to go live with their dad during Spring Break and face his secrets head on, they start to question what family really means and how any family can ever be ‘happy’.

So the blurb on the jacket doesn’t let you in on the secret, but the dedication and cover art do AND it’s revealed pretty early on, so SPOLIER ALERT: Y and Justin’s dad reveals that he wears women’s clothing and feels that he is a woman.  So, a bit of a shock is an understatement.  The novel starts with Y and Justin before the big reveal and then cuts to right before their trip with their dad and their lives sort of wrecked.  We get the story from both Y and Juston’s viewpoints and fortunately, both feel like real and different voices. The twins go gradually through the stages of shock, anger, and disbelief into understanding and eventually acceptance.  This is dealt with realistically and doesn’t turn into a lecture or an after school special (Dear Teenagers, ask your parents about after school specials!). They meet people, learn from them, question things, and eventually adapt.   

What I liked most about this novel is the real sense of a loving family torn apart and eventually reunited through love.  Way too often families are entirely on the sidelines or cardboard cutouts in YA lit, but this book has a genuine and warm focus on the family. The book is about a controversial and tough issue to address, but it looks at it in a clear-eyed and non-sensational way. I think it is a great read for anyone that likes family dramas or wants to read about a provocative and unique subject.  

You can check our catalog for Happy Families here.

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