This lovely middle grade coming of age novel is the story of Verbena Colter. She's graduated from grade five, and is a having a difficult time. Not only is she cranky and moody in general, she's been abandoned by her best friend, Annie, who's gone to spend the summer at a camp with one of the popular girls. In addition to this, Verbena has discovered that she is adopted. Her birth father, her uncle, is doing time for killing someone. Her mother was an alcoholic who didn't stop drinking when she was expecting her. Consequently Verbena has some attributes of fetal alcohol syndrome which account for her small size, learning problems, and some facial features. Just that is a heck of a lot for any kid to process, but Verbena's also struggling with her feelings of embarrassment about her mother's large size and father's age. Because she doesn't think she or her family are normal, Verbena has come to see herself as damaged and evil.
When Pooch moves in next door, Verbena tells him a lie that enables her to be someone else. She knows it is wrong, but this subterfuge allows her to eventually acknowledge, "I was also myself - my old self - the one I'd been before everything had gone wrong. All this time I thought it was only Annie I missed, but what I realized now, was that the person I'd been missing most was me."
When disaster strikes, not only does Verbena have to fess up, she has to dredge up the power within herself to do the near impossible.
This book is a reminder that we are all damaged in some way. Yet while none of us are perfect, that doesn't mean that we aren't worthy of loving and being loved. Ultimately, we are ok just being who we are, all the while becoming the best person we can be.