Last Updated on May 9, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 547
As the title suggests, this book is about divorce. It is told from the point of view of a teenager trying to adapt to the lives of parents in two different locations. Watching her confront the problem of her parents' divorce, their dating other people, and her position within all these relationships is like viewing a juggling act. Not only must the main character, Phoebe, cope with her parents, as she adapts to a new school and new friends where she lives with her father in Woodstock, but she also tries to retain contact with her previous friends in her mother's city of New York.
However, the book does not deal only with serious subjects. Phoebe's exciting relationship with her new boyfriend is one of several challenges she faces, including a visiting female raccoon and coping with her mother's hateful fiance. There are many puns and one-liner jokes to enjoy, and all readers will cheer Phoebe's creative approach to dealing with crummy food at the school cafeteria. Like most teenagers, Phoebe finds life at once troublesome and thrilling, supplying her with many questions but not many answers.
Phoebe Brooks is a normal ninth grader who wants a normal life. But Phoebe does not stand a chance of living peacefully, not with one parent living in New York City, and one in Woodstock, and her having to travel back and forth between the two every weekend. Phoebe gets through it all playing her word game—she takes words and rearranges the letters to new effects. On the first page of the book, she discovers the word PARENTS can be rearranged as ENTRAPS, describing her feelings exactly.
After living with her wealthy mother in the city for a time, Phoebe is staying with her father. As an artist, he fits in well with the unusually creative atmosphere of Woodstock. Phoebe really enjoys her new home and closer relationship with her father Jim, but she misses her New York City friends and sometimes suffers guilt when she thinks of her mother being alone. Balancing the needs of her parents is exhausting, as is riding the bus back and forth each weekend. The Divorce Express, as the bus comes to be called, is a real drag until Phoebe meets a new friend, Rosie. They have parent problems in common—Rosie visits her father in New York City each weekend.
Before long, Phoebe's New York friends seem to have forgotten her, and she is less than thrilled when her mother announces that she will marry a man Phoebe despises. Suddenly the girls discover that Rosie's mother, Mindy, and Jim have been dating on the weekends the girls are gone, and the friends happily face the possibility that they may become stepsisters. But they are kept busy with more pressing problems.
Phoebe's big city experience demands that she take a leading part in the school cafeteria food campaign, and she also has her new boyfriend Dave to worry about. But with a little help from all the important people in her life, by the final page of the book, Phoebe realizes DIVORCES can be rearranged to DISCOVER. It is all part of the game to keep Phoebe sane, and to help her in her attempt to find peace while riding the Divorce Express.
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