Four middle-schoolers navigate blossoming boy-girl romances, attending their first school dance, dealing with parents and the older generations, and managing anxieties over various issues. Miles sometimes overthinks problems and is an obsessive worrier. His Grandpop Billy, who is wheelchair-bound because he lost both legs in a bus accident and who is recovering from a recent heart attack, owns the bowling alley where his parents work and where he spends most of his free time. His best friend Randall is a stylish dresser who sells fancy footwear online and is working up the courage to invite his neighbor Tate to the dance. Tate, who has long had a crush on Randall, competes in weightlifting, runs an online knitting business and is missing her best friend who has moved away. Amy, recently moved from Chicago after her mother died of cancer and her dad, a former Unitarian Universalist preacher, decided to learn the mortuary trade to help his brother run the Eternal Peace Funeral Home, misses her dog and her best friend Kat. Amy, who writes fairy tales in her free time, is extremely self-conscious about her “leg-length discrepancy” and finds it hard to make new friends until she stumbles across Tate in the school library. It’s all a bit much.
On the plus side, this is a sweet story with nothing in it to give offense. Middle-schoolers will identify with the characters beginning their transition to adulthood. Themes of friendship, facing changes in life with confidence and optimism, and, of course, loss will resonate with all readers. (Dealing with loss is, in fact, the main theme of the book–loss of parents, grandparents, friends, neighborhoods, even limbs and height.) Alternating chapters between Miles and Amy provide balanced viewpoints to make the story equally appealing to all sexes, though, interestingly enough, there are no LGBTQIA references at all–a rarity in current YA fiction.