Reviewed by Carrie Spellman for TeensReadToo.com
Hallie Palmer just wants to be a normal college student. But that idea has just flown out the window of the frat party she got pulled away from. Her dad just passed away, which caused her mom to have a nervous breakdown. The doctor's send her mom to Dalewood, the local mental institution, for rest and recovery.
With Dad gone, and Mom in the "nuthouse", Hallie is back in the place she worked so hard to escape, home. Now she has to arrange a funeral, take care of her eight younger brothers and sisters, sort through insurance information, conquer the growing stack of bills, and figure out which twin brother is which. (If only the ribbon had stayed in place!) Not to mention the runaway sister, the burst pipes in the basement, an on-again off-again boyfriend, and meetings with the school principal who still doesn't like her. Hallie's got her work cut out for her, and she's pretty sure she's done for.
Help, and sometimes entertainment, come in strange forms, and Hallie learns that beggars can't be choosers. From the churchwomen brigade who feed them, to crazy Uncle Lenny, who has some questionable ideas about bedtime stories (among other things), to a babysitting chimp, to even crazier Aunt Lala who's more than a little absentminded... It may not be much of a life, but it certainly isn't boring!
This is not the first book about Hallie Palmer, but I can say from experience that it stands alone. (Having not read any of the others at this point, though I think I may have to do that now.) I do rather feel like I might have had more connection to the secondary characters if I had read the other books. (It took me awhile to figure out that Gil and Bernard were both men.) Nonetheless, I still found them lovable and entertaining. While I found Hallie a little frustrating at times, it helped to realize that I would be more than lost in that situation. There is a lot going on in this book, but it never felt jumbled or lost. I don't know if Hallie and I would be friends, but I certainly like the people she hangs around with!