Reviewed by Grandma Bev for TeensReadToo.com
Michael always spends the summer at his grandparents' farm, and he is really looking forward to this summer. He and Grandpa always go fishing on the first day, and this year he will be allowed to drive the tractor. They pack up and drive to the farm, but when they arrive, an ambulance is just leaving with Grandpa, who has had a fatal heart attack. Michael is devastated...how can this happen? Michael's uncle and cousin decide to put up the hay that Grandpa had cut so that it wouldn't spoil, but they refuse to let Michael drive the tractor -- they are afraid that he can't handle it.
Back in the city, Michael feels truly alone since Dad is always busy with his schooling and working on the dissertation for his P.H.D. Dad suggests that Michael might like to take some individual art lessons from his good friend, Charlie, since Michael always seems to have a pencil and paper at hand and is very good at art. Michael decides to do that, and trades doing some summer yard work for art lessons, and he and Charlie become friends.
Michael chooses a portrait of Grandpa for his art project at school, but he just can't seem to get the eyes right, even though Charlie works with him every week to improve his skills. This is a very emotional story, as Michael swings from denial to anger to sorrow, and feels that the whole world is against him. He feels that his math teacher hates him and his best friends have distanced themselves from him. They just seem to have other interests this year that don't include Michael. He does make a new friend in Melanie, the cute new girl across the aisle from him in math class. Then Michael learns that his new friend and art mentor, Charlie, might be dying from cancer.
Cynthia Cotten writes with great sensitivity about a difficult subject in this story with compelling characters and a well-developed plot. The title, FAIR HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH IT, is right on. Life is not fair, but learning to cope with what life hands out is crucial to our children's mental health. This book should be in every library and on your child's summer reading list.