In the sleepy town of Clarence, Indiana, a young girl lives a life of invisibility. Barbara Birnbaum is invisible to her parents, her siblings, and her peers. Pretty much the only time anyone notices Barbara is if they need someone to blame. Little does anyone know just how important Barbara will be.
Barbara’s grandmother, the one she is named after, comes to town and from then on in Barbara’s life is anything but boring. In addition to the fact that no one really seems to know much about Grandma, the Birnbaum’s life is suddenly tossed into chaos when their house is ransacked and Grandma is kidnapped. When Barbara meets Jesse, the new boy in town with a reputation for getting into trouble, the two of them become involved in a dangerous adventure that could cost them their lives and doom the entire free world.
What an outstanding debut novel from author CB Lilley! A cast of engaging and sometimes annoying characters combined with a riveting plot and loads of cloak-and-dagger adventure, awaits tweens and teens everywhere. While I spent some time wondering if this novel would have been even better if told entirely from Barbara’s point of view with her as the narrator, I would have missed the insights into Jesse gained by the third person omniscient POV. Jesse’s bad boy image works well against Barbara’s average just blending in existence, and what young person can’t appreciate Barbara’s small level of resentment towards the rest of her family who treat her as if she doesn’t exist. The Birnbaum world seems to revolve around her sister, Madison, the pretty one who wins all the awards. That, and trying to figure a way to put some distance between the Birnbaum twins who act as if they are one person because they are so eerily close.
My one tiny complaint is that the Birnbaum parents are portrayed as so oblivious to Barbara’s existence that they don’t even seem to get too worried when she’s gone for a few days. The ruse she used in the beginning worked, but I can’t imagine any caring parents not making sure to connect with their daughter at least once during the time she’s away, especially when it appears that one of the family members was kidnapped from their home. However, I must admit that this seems to be a more normal portrayal of parents these days than the June and Ward Cleavers I grew up with.
Blame it on Barbara is a fast-paced, page-turning adventure that readers ages 9 to 14 will most certainly enjoy. I’m eager to see what CB Lilley comes out with next.
Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂