You May Already Be a Winner by Ann Dee Ellis (review)
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Reviewed by
Ellis, Ann Dee You May Already Be a Winner. Dial, 2017[352p]
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-101-99385-9 $16.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-101-99387-3 $10.9
Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 4–6

Child-care duties have fallen to twelve-year-old Olivia Hales since her mom hasn’t been able get her act together after her husband took off; now Olivia’s skipping school to watch her sister Berkeley and basically running the household in their dinky trailer in Sunny Pines Trailer Park. The two things Olivia pins her hopes for a better day on are: first, that Dad will get her letters and come back from his temporary gig as a ranger in Bryce Canyon; second, that she’ll win a contest and change the family fortunes. The wishes are equally fanciful, and deep down Olivia knows this, but suddenly an actual friend appears in her life—Bart, a kid as reticent to discuss his background as she is, and whose claims to be an FBI agent as are preposterous as her own imaginings. A novel that begins with the promise of yet another plucky girl in a trailer park steadily gains depth as Olivia’s life resonates with her mother’s mood swings and it becomes clear that only outside intervention is going to get the Hales family on track. Fictional children suffering from their parents’ inadequacies are a dime a dozen, but Ellis limns in Olivia a fully realized character who is convincingly resourceful yet dependent so that, when the child finally snaps under the family strain, readers are likely to feel fiercely protective and outraged on her behalf, rather than merely saddened by her plight. There’s a brighter future ahead for Olivia, not because she’s plucky but because the adults in her life finally start acting like adults.

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