St. Martin's, Apr 2003, 24.95, 352 pp.
UCLA junior Olivia Martin detests her extended family for honoring her with an advance degree in relational cynicism. Her mother is so pathetically immature that Olivia wonders whom raised who. Her father is so bossy, she wonders if anyone else is allowed oxygen when he is around. His second wife always defers to her royal husband on anything no matter how minuscule it seems. Finally, her preschool half sister Celia is so girlish she serves as a reminder for why she loathes anyone who mentions the virtues of families. Beware Dan Quayle.
However, her college haven ends when her father and his spouse die in a car crash. Though inheriting the large LA mansion is not a shock, being named guardian to prissy Celia is. While trying to avoid premature motherhood and continue with her good time lifestyle, Olivia begins to care for her sad ward. Soon Olivia begins to fall in love with the executor of her father's estate, but Dennis Klein expects her to nurture her half-sister beyond turning on the TV and giving the brat sugar. He demands she do the decent thing.
Though poignant, readers will wonder about the girl whom sought freedom at any cost becoming so responsible and dependable not because of her sis' need, but due to the exec's response. Still the characters engage the audience as Olivia struggles with a dysfunctional family before the car accident and even afterward as the ghost of her overbearing dad lingers and her helpless mom tries to “help”. Fans of a coming of age chick lit drama will relish Claire Scovell LaZebnik's tale.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner