When Lena was three years old, her mother died suddenly. Lena's half-brother Danny, 22 years old at the time, became her legal guardian. Danny had only been dating Nick for a few months at the time of Lena's adoption, but Nick "apparently liked [her] brother enough that he didn't complain that Danny now came with a three-year-old."
Twelve years later, all of Lena's memories are of life with Danny and Nick. This isn't a bad thing--she loves them and they are the only parents she has ever known--but she is disappointed with her three-year-old self for not creating any mother memories. Danny refuses to talk about their mother, and he has to be treated "like [he] might be carrying ancient unexploded weapons inside" of him at all times. Which means that, when Lena finds a picture (and then a video) of their mother at a protest with baby Danny, she has to do some snooping into the past to learn more. As Lena digs into history Danny would rather she left alone, Danny gets a new job working for a conservative politician whom Nick, the owner of a small, all-organic coffee shop, loathes. Meanwhile, a bomber targets London's grocery stores, making the city tense and wary.
Indie bookstore manager Catherine Barter's debut novel for teens is a quiet, powerful work. Most of the story is in the things left unsaid and undone--bombs that haven't exploded, histories that haven't been told--making Lena and the city she inhabits seem on the edge of a radical change. Troublemakers is an affecting dive into the everyday of a family striving for stability in an ever-changing world. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness