Sixteen-year-old Carl, electronics wizard, has a plan. With his grades and the money he gets repairing and selling stolen car stereos, he'll get to college, away from Milwaukee and his alcoholic mother forever. Carl wants to be an electrical engineer, marry the perfect woman, and forget where he came from. But when his mother is arrested for drunk-driving, Carl is whisked away to stay with his country relatives. Fitting into small town life was never part of the plan, and it takes Carl a good while to let his defenses down, let people care about him, and let himself care about other people. Just when the resilient teen has begun to formulate new plans, his past comes back to haunt him: Carl is hauled back to the city to face criminal charges. With the help of a social worker, he is forced to confront the effect his mother's alcoholism has had on his life. Carl's story is complex, but Alden Carter, the acclaimed author of Between a Rock and a Hard Place, Dogwolf, and other fine young adult novels, rises to the challenge. He develops his characters fully and sympathetically, ensuring that readers appreciate that Carl's life has no easy answers. Throughout the boy's several ordeals, however, Carl maintains his strength and sense of hope, and it is this aspect of his character that will make readers want to see his story come out all right. Useful information on alcoholism — particularly on C.O.A., an organization that helps the children of alcoholic parents — is woven into the text and will be duly noted by kids who may need advice and help.