Frankie Joe has grown up in a trailer park in Texas and, when his mom is sent to prison for drug dealing, he has to go and live with his dad, step-mom and four step-brothers in a small town in freezing cold Illinois. While this tale could easily be a downer, it's told in the first person (from Frankie's point of view) with humor and empathy. Frankie has grown up not really knowing much at all about his past, and we soon find out that not only has his mom omitted to tell him things, but she's also lied about some important issues too. In any event, while he knows about his dad (a little), he doesn't know he has a step-mother or step-brothers. He's also behind in school and has to deal with that when he gets to Illinois.
For a book of its size (around 240 pages), author Clifton does a masterful job of drawing all the characters in the Illinois town. Frankie's character leaps off the page with life, energy and emotion from the very first paragraph. There's lots of quirky, cute, well-meaning, and some apparently not-so-well meaning characters in this story. But the real story is Frankie coming to terms with who he really is and where he really belongs. This is a very enjoyable and accessible read for older and younger folks alike and might be a good discussion starter about split families, school and family bullying etc. I highly recommend it to anyone. It's basically just a very good book.