Barthe DeClements is most well-known for her books Nothing’s Fair in Fifth Grade, and Sixth Grade Can Really Kill You. But I actually prefer this book over either of those (but not as much as Double Trouble, which technically takes place in the same universe as this book.)
Copper Jones is twelve years old. Her mother has just entered an alcohol rehab center (again) and can’t care for her. Her stepfather has decided to leave, and the book begins with him calling family members trying to get them agree to take Copper in until the mom gets out.
Copper ends up going to Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Tom’s house. (Dorothy is her mom’s older sister). Things do not go well. Dorothy and Tom have three daughters Kim (14), Brenda (11), and Sarah (8). Copper assumes she’ll be rooming with the pretty and popular Kim, but instead she’s put with babyish and tattle-tale Sarah.
Dorothy and Tom have more rules than Copper is used to. Copper’s mother was usually too drunk to care too much about what she was doing. Copper usually gets Kim to go along with what she wants to do. One rule is that the girls aren’t allowed to go to the skating rink on Friday nights (because that’s when the stoners are there). So Kim and Copper pretend to go to a movie, but sneak to the skating rink instead. Copper wants to meet up with the very cute Ricky Layton.
Of course, they’re caught after being tattled on by Sarah. Copper says some rude things to Sarah (making fun of her overbite) and Dorothy decides that Copper isn’t welcome there anymore.
Next, Copper is off to Aunt Judith and Uncle Raymond. They are well-off and have no kids. Uncle Raymond is running for state Senate. Things are great at home at first, though the school situation is much worse. While people liked Copper at the other school, no one even talks to her here.
One night Judith and Raymond have to go to a fundraiser and the babysitter gets the flu. So against their better judgment, they leave Copper alone at night. Of course that night, a burglar gets into the condo. Copper hides under the bed and calls the cops, who get there, and catch the burglar then wait for Judith and Raymond.
Raymond knows the press will be over this story, and decides Copper is a liability to his political campaign. That leaves Copper only one place to go: Aunt Maggie’s.
Maggie is Copper’s biological father’s sister. Copper’s mother doesn’t like Maggie because she practices witchcraft. Because of this, Copper has a negative opinion of Maggie right off the bat.
But Maggie turns out to be a really nice woman. She has a nice balance of being kind to Copper while not putting up with any of her shit. And she is open about practicing witchcraft. She talks to Copper about how what you put out in the universe comes back to you threefold. After a couple instances of Copper getting caught lying to Maggie, she feels genuinely bad, and decides to turn over a new leaf.
Maggie says she likes having Copper with her, and invites her to stay with her after the mom gets out of treatment and gets settled and looks for a job.
- I know Copper could be a handful, but I’d have liked someone to realize how shitty a time this twelve year old kid is having. I’m thinking more of Dorothy & Tom, because they have kids and they should have a little bit of a clue. But also, her stepdad could have maybe stuck around at least a little bit longer so Copper didn’t have to move around.
- Raymond is especially awful. He doesn’t care that Copper is OK after the run-in with the burglar, just about his political career. And he lectures her about putting a robe on in front of the cops, which embarrasses her because she hadn’t realized her nips were poking through her tee shirt. Because she’s fucking twelve years old and has just been through a trauma and wouldn’t even be thinking of it yet. And I’m sure the cops weren’t perving on her. But way to shame her for the crime of having boobs, Raymond.
- There’s a nice scene where Maggie agrees to take Copper to the skating rink in Dorothy and Tom’s town to see Ricky Layton and Copper gets her first kiss. Then she tells Maggie about it, and it’s very sweet.
- Jake and Faith from Double Trouble make a small cameo in this book. They are close with Mrs. Thompson, Copper’s favorite teacher from her school at Maggie’s. Mrs. Thompson tells Copper a little about their adventures the year before.
- When Maggie offers a place for Copper, I think it’s because the mom is clearly not serious at all about her recovery. It’s clear it’s not going to work.
- Copper’s name matches her hair. But how could her parents have known that when they named her when she was a tiny little baby?
- I don’t know why, but this book was impossible to find. I’ve been searching for it since I began the blog. Which, by the way was EXACTLY SIX YEARS AGO.