Five months after the events in the Printz honor-winning The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things, 16-year-old Virginia still doesn't have it all figured out. She's "fallen out of like" with boyfriend Froggy; BFF Shannon is MIA for the summer; and, worst of all, police have charged her older brother, Byron, with rape. There is one bright spot: Sebastian, a "sea-glass-eyed, long-haired... nonskater artist boy" who makes her "stomach flip." Happiness is fleeting, though, when a twist of fate threatens to ruin their summer romance before it even has a chance to begin.
Virginia breezily shares her insecurities, fantasies and fears in a chatty voice, immediately establishing a rapport with readers, who will likely empathize with her "Entire Family Issues," including when her CEO dad makes her feel like "a lowly employee in his executive universe." Curvy Virginia often feels invisible in her athletic family, but she is often the metaphorical "punching bag whenever [her] parents are stressed," and it's only after both her siblings have disappointed their parents that Virginia finally rises to the top of "The Mike and Phyllis pressure machine."
While Carolyn Mackler's (The Future of Us) The Universe Is Expanding and So Am I delves into sensitive and painful topics, there is also a lot of humor. Virginia's wry observations of her small slice of the world are delivered through brutally honest lists about important things in her life, like her rules for "How to Make Sure Skinny Girls Aren't the Only Ones Who Have Boyfriends" (Rule #2: "Don't act like you're intimately acquainted with all the restaurants within a twenty-block radius of your apartment"). This welcome sarcasm coupled with a frothy romance balances the headier, more emotional topics. --Lana Barnes, freelance reviewer and proofreader