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Blended families, a deadbeat dad, religion, sibling rivalry, abandonment. These are all issues that Caroline B. Cooney tackles, quite deftly, in A FRIEND AT MIDNIGHT.

When eight-year-old Michael decides to go live with his father, it's a strain on the entire family. His mother pretends as if it's not happening. His stepfather, Kells, attempts to placate his wife. His oldest sister, Reb, doesn't have a lot of time to deal with it, as she's preparing to leave for college. His baby half-brother, Nathaniel, doesn't understand what it means until after the fact. And his fifteen-year-old sister, Lily, knows that it's destined to end badly.

And badly it does end, when dear old dad drops Michael off, alone, without any money, luggage, or a plane ticket, at the airport to go back to his mother. In his father's words: "You're not the son I had in mind." What happens next involves a fraudulently-obtained credit card, a teenager and a toddler on an airplane, a brush with airport security, and a quick trip back home -- all before Mom and Kells arrive back home after dropping Reb off at college.

The next year is filled with changes, for everyone, but especially for Michael and Lily. Younger brother has promised older sister to absolute secrecy, and Lily's finding it harder and harder to keep the matter quiet. No one else knows how horrible their father is; no one knows the terrible thing he did to his youngest child. But Michael refuses to tell the truth; in fact, Michael refuses to hold a grudge against the fathers he loves so much, even though everyone sees that Michael is not the same since he's returned home.

When things come to a boiling point, it will be up to Michael to let the truth be known. It will also be up to the entire family to deal with the resulting fall-out, and with learning what it means to forgive -- and, even more, what it means to really be "a friend at midnight."

Ms. Cooney has written another emotional winner that will have you glued to the pages until the end. This is a sad, heartbreaking tale that still manages to be uplifting, and everyone will find something in it that they can relate to.

Reviewed by: Jennifer Wardrip, aka "The Genius"
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on 14 October 2009
Lily is watching her baby brother when she gets a call from her other brother, Michael. Their father just dropped eight-year-old Michael off at the airport in Baltimore without money or a plane ticket. Michael begs Lily to help him get home and to keep what Dad did a secret. Lily risks everything to rescue her brother. She can't believe that her dad would abandon his son in such a way. And after everything that Dad said and did to Michael, how can Michael still love him?

This book was excellent. Cooney does a masterful job of getting into three sibling's very different views of their parent's divorce. I was drawn into the mystery of what was going on, and then to the characters as they struggled through life and their relationship with their father. I loved how Cooney ended it all. Touching and through-provoking. Highly recommended.
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