Summary: An Occasionally Happy Family
In An Occasionally Happy Family, Theo’s dad is bundling him and his sister, Laura into the car for a road trip to Big Bend National Park. Although nature doesn’t fit into any of the kids’ interests (Theo like comics), they follow along for a chance to have a nicer family vacation than visiting their grandma. It’s also a good chance to bond more since their mom died a few years ago.
The kids notice, though, that their dad is suspiciously over-excited (and in turns) nervous about the trip and everything makes sense when mid-way through, he introduces them to his new girlfriend, Lucrecia.
This is a hilarious story and Theo’s sense of humor is evident in his storytelling and the way he views the world around him. I loved all the quips between him and Laura and their dad is hilariously awkward in his encounters with other campers. I found the first half of the book to be really comical, which propels the plot a bit. I didn’t read the description so I had no idea where we were going with the camping narrative, which made for a nice surprise.
Behind the humor of this story is a family dealing with grief, kids who miss their mother, and a father who still misses his wife — but all of whom rarely talk about her or their grief. This makes it harder for them to cope as a family as move forward healthily. So when Lucrecia — who loves to discuss feelings and express affection physically — enters the picture, the kids are thrown off.
I loved the way the author resolves the issues and the realistic response the kids have to Lucrecia. The balance of lighthearted jokes and serious themes makes this a worthy read.
Overall: An Occasionally Happy Family
An Occasionally Happy Family is a surprisingly heartwarming, funny, and adventure-packed road-trip story about family and grief. Starring a witty and artistic young protagonist, this story intertwines humor with serious issues such as teens’ social media usage, confronting difficult emotions, and adjusting to a parent’s new relationship. If you like funny middle grade books, this will make an excellent read!
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