Ronney kept believing his dad would snap out of it and shape up—until his hope turned into anger.
In Makersville, Indiana, a local eccentric with a collection of neglected exotic zoo animals sets all the animals free and then kills himself. But 15-year-old Ronney is focused on keeping things together for his precocious, sensitive younger sister, prescription drug–addicted mother, and suicidally depressed father. He’s also in love with a perfectionistic girl who only wants to be friends, and he has a best friend whose desire to go viral with photos of the escaped animals veers into death-wish territory (both characters are light-skinned). Ronney is deeply flawed, with a rage that simmers close to the surface, but readers will sympathize with his burning resentment toward his father’s mental illness and its impact on the family. He doesn’t much care about flunking algebra, not with half the town arming themselves with guns and a motley crew of animal rights and gun (pro and con) activists descending in protest. Ronney is refreshingly and defiantly multiracial (his family’s exact heritage is not specified, but he is at one point mistaken for Latino), and readers will fall hard for him in this novel that balances the heartbreak of a parent’s emotional abandonment and a child’s fear of violence with plenty of absurd, laugh-out-loud moments.
A superbly entertaining read that weaves issues of mental health and gun control with adolescent angst.(Fiction. 13-18)