Thirteen year-old Edna is out of control, and her wealthy, indulged parents are out of ideas for how to handle her. As a last-ditch effort to reform their daughter, Edna’s parents drop her off at an isolated cabin in the desert with only her stoic grandmother and Vietnam veteran grandfather for company. Furious, Edna pulls out all her most manipulative, most challenging behaviors, but this time they have no effect. She is left with no choice but to survive the next two months with her grandparents, zero technology and a never-ending chore list. Her feelings about the desert change when she meets handsome seventeen year-old Johnny Bishop. When Edna stumbles onto the idea to throw a birthday party for grandpa, who hasn’t spoken in years, what begins as a ploy to gain more time with Johnny evolves into a deeper compassion and understanding for her grandparents and their difficult lives.
Lederman creates a memorable cast of characters, each unique and fascinating. As a parent, it’s frightening to witness Edna’s cool confidence and mastery at manipulation. One wants to slap them all the way to parenting classes. Edna’s grandmother is probably the most complex and interesting character of the cast. The narrative is peppered with truly insightful moments, though frequent ricochets from one character’s deep point-of-view to another’s sometimes interrupt the flow of the story. The deepening of Edna’s character and values and the closeness she develops with her grandparents make this a sweet, moving story.
Thirteen year-old Edna and a much older teenaged boy engage in some pretty frantic kissing, but the exchange stops before clothes come off. Edna references the fascination her friends have with kissing and kissing games. She thinks the games are gross, but she recounts her friends’ participation briefly.
Edna and her grandparents attend church listen to a sermon about Jesus refusing bread from the Devil after forty days without food in the desert. Edna thinks about her own life and in what ways she might be experiencing temptation she needs to resist. She spends some time each day practicing something she thinks of as a Tibetan monk way of life, in which she tries not to force time to pass but exists in the present.
A boy punches a man in the face after he says something crude about a girl.
At a hotel, two couples who’ve been drinking heavily invite Edna and her friend to play volleyball with them. No teenage drinking.