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Between Mom and Jo    by Julie Anne Peters order for
Between Mom and Jo
by Julie Anne Peters
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2006 (2006)

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* * *   Reviewed by Lyn Seippel

With the help of a scrapbook, fourteen-year-old Nick tells the story of his life in flashbacks, starting with an emergency room visit when he was three. His mom, Jo, was there to hold his hand and make him laugh in spite of the pain of his stitches.

Nick's vignettes tell about growing up with two very different women. His birth mother, Erin, is cautious and dependable, with a plan for her future. Jo is spontaneous, playful, and often irresponsible. They are his parents and Nick loves and trusts them both.

Nick puts up with teasing at school, harassment from his babysitter, and discrimination by those who refuse to accept Jo and Erin as a married couple with a child. Even his third grade teacher finds it impossible to put a picture of his unusual family up in her classroom. At Parents Night, Jo is there to fight for him and Erin is there to smooth things over.

Within the love of her family, Jo fights alcoholism and Erin fights breast cancer and still manages to get her law degree. Nick's vignettes turn into the story of a love that didn't last when his biological mother falls for someone else. Erin's actions when she and Jo separate are not rational. She high-handedly decides that if Jo is out of her life she should be out of Nick's life as well. Jo never adopted Nick, so she has no legal right to see him.

Erin also thinks that Nick will have no desire to see his other mother and that any contact between them must be the result of Jo calling him. It takes Erin far too long to realize that Nick needs them both, but the novel is well written and shows that different kinds of families exist and have many of the same problems that traditional ones have.

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