High school senior Gem has never lead a normal life. Her unreliable, cheating, drug-addicted father left years ago to chase his dreams and her selfish, party-animal mother have never been “normal” parents that she can rely on for security. But the one constant in her life has been Dixie. Gem grew up taking care of her little sister when no one else could. Gem sacrifices her own freedom to care for her mother just so that Dixie can have as stable a life as she possibly can.
But when their father suddenly re-appears in their lives it is clear that Dixie still holds onto the idea that he can be a good father and falls for his obvious lies and charms. Gem feels caught in the midd
le of trying to help her little sister see the light and her knowledge that she will eventually have to leave her family behind if she ever wants to move up in life.
The choice that Gem has to make, to stay or to leave, is a hard one and as a result she winds up shouldering all of the responsibility that should never be left to a teenager. When describing why she has never reached out to another adult for help, including her school therapist who knows that something is up at home with Gem, and instead isolates herself she explains, “Imagine: Your family is broken. Your family is addicted. You family is poor or sick or unstable in some other way….your mother doesn’t say, Hey kids let’s call Uncle Ivan, let’s send him a Christmas card….No, it’s more like your mom stares into space and says, Ivan went off to Idaho with his new girlfriend, who, by the way is pregnant, so I guess that’s that.” Gem feels that she has no one to reach out to – no one to understand.
This story is uplifting and beautifully written, five stars all the way.