The opening line is “The very best day of my life, I threw up four times and had a fever of 103 degrees” – and the book just gets better from there. The tremendously sympathetic first-person narrator, 12-year-old Fern, is named after the heroine in Charlotte’s Web. Her three siblings are also named after famous fictitious characters. First is Sara (A Little Princess), who’s temporarily stuck working at the family diner – the “Harry’s” in the title – because her grades didn’t get her into a good college. Next is Holden, a likable big brother just coming to terms with being gay. And, last but not least, sticky, spirited, 3-year-old Charlie, who simultaneously drives Fern crazy and melts her heart (even if she doesn’t always admit it). The first half of the book is as sweet and satisfying as a chocolate malt; then tragedy strikes and life as Fern knows it is over.
This is a gorgeous story, brimming with life and love and honesty. When Fern says, “I feel like I am breaking,” the reader’s heart breaks, too. The family’s grief is very real, their pain very deep. And their slow but certain journey toward healing resonates with hope and heart.