valentinebluesValentine Blues by Jeanne Betancourt, 1990.

This book is part of the Aviva Granger Stories series.  (It’s the only one I have in the series right now.)

In the last book, Aviva’s best friend, Josh, came to live with her, her mother, and her step-father.  Josh was living in an orphanage before that, and since he and Aviva were close, her mother and stepfather thought that it would be natural to invite him to be part of the family.  At the time, Aviva thought that it was a good idea, but being friends with someone doesn’t mean that it will be easy living with them, and Aviva’s family life is already complicated!

Aviva’s parents are divorced, and both her mother and father are already in new relationships.  Her mother has remarried, and Aviva not only has a stepfather but a half-sister (college age) and half-brother (baby) living in the same house.  Aviva’s father has a girlfriend, Miriam, and Aviva doesn’t get along well with her.  Miriam would like it if she and Aviva’s father had a child of their own.

When Josh comes to live with Aviva’s mother and her family, Aviva realizes that sharing a family and house with him makes things even more complicated.  He takes too long in the bathroom and makes her late to school.  He’s one more person for her mother to pay attention to, so Aviva gets less attention.  Even her dog seems to like Josh better now!

Then, shortly after Valentine’s Day, Aviva overhears Josh and his friend Ronnie Cioffi talking about girls and giving them ratings based on their looks.  Out of 10 points, Cioffi rates Aviva as a 2, and Josh agrees.  Josh has a crush on Louise, a girl they know from school, and she has a much better figure.

It isn’t that Aviva is in love with Josh, who she sees more as a friend/brother, but it hurts that he seems to be taking her place in the family and doesn’t even really appreciate her, joining in with his friend in making fun of her body.  With her time divided between two households, two parents who hardly seem to have time for her these days, and Josh moving in and taking over, Aviva worries that maybe she doesn’t really belong anywhere or to anybody.

It takes a night when Aviva sleeps out in the barn without telling anyone where she is to make the people closest to her realize how much she needs them.  A sleepover at Louise’s house (where the girls candidly discuss their own ratings for the boys they know) and Aviva’s anonymous question in sex ed class also help to put the rating system into perspective for all the kids.

The book has some Christian themes because the children go to a Catholic school, although this book mostly focuses on family life and girls’ and boys’ perceptions of each other.  The kids are eighth graders, and there is also some talk about sex ed.

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