Rodowsky, Colby. Not Quite a Stranger. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003. ISBN 978-0374355487 192 pp. $
When a boy who looks disconcertingly like her father shows up on her doorstep, 13-year-old Charlotte a.k.a Tottie is furious at the disruption to her seemingly idyllic life. Children often have trouble thinking of their parents as sexual beings, and Zachary is in-her-face proof that her father had a relationship prior to his marriage. While Tottie struggles with this reality, Zach is contending not only with a new ready-made family but also coping with the recent death of his mother while attempting to develop a relationship with a father he has never known. Family is redefined in this novel about the realities of blood relationships.
The two-sided telling offers both sides of the story. Distinctly voiced chapters alternate between Tottie and Zach to give the reader gets a clear understanding of how both characters feel. Eventually, Tottie and Zach come to understand one another. So often, families gloss over issues or sweep things under the carpet. This family comes out in the open. It is refreshing that Tottie not only breaks down at the end and says how she really feels, but also finds a way to resolve her feelings.
The emotions feel genuine, the story and characters are empathetic and real, and the plot is well resolved. Not a necessity, but a nice addition to middle school collections; perhaps the paperback will have a more attractive cover.