Serena has a lot going on-- she has been chosen for the lead role in the middle school production of The Wiz, and she's glad because she loves to act, but things are home are bad. Her mother was killed in an automobile accident, and ever since then, her father (who has struggled with depression before) is struck so hard by "the blue" that he can't even get out of bed. Serena tries to take care of her younger brother Henry; picking him up and taking him to play practice, doing laundry, feeding him and checking his homework, but when they run out of food and money and her father is still not responsive, she contacts an uncle to get help. The uncle comes, just in time to avert a tragedy, and the family tries to band together and move beyond their grief.
Strengths: This is the sort of problem novel that many of my 7th graders adore, because it concerns a girl their age trying simply to survive. I thought it was marvelous because Serena was a solidly middle class African-American girl with strong school interests, caught in a bad situation... and the book was NOT about her ethnicity. We need more books about characters of different backgrounds where the story line does not center around the background. Jones is great for that. Finding My Place and Standing Against the Wind are both strong circulators at my school.
Weaknesses: The ending was a bit abrupt and deus ex machina, but given the situation, it's not uncalled for.