A family secret is revealed during an ill-fated—yet hilarious—trip to Disney World.
Sixteen-year-old Hannah Sampson knows her family is not what you would call normal. Her father compulsively buys dented cans and has a particular fondness for cans without labels, which are extremely discounted because their contents are a mystery. Her mother takes countless pictures of her family and then glues them down into the pages of her scrapbooks, but does not allow anyone to look at them. Ryan, Hannah’s mischievous fourteen-year-old brother, is headed straight for the remedial track at the local community college, if he’s lucky. Ben, her eight-year-old brother, is a walking sound effects machine, who prefers to communicate with noises rather than words. While Hannah is focused on escaping her working-class Connecticut suburb, she also finds herself being tugged back home as she worries about her brother Ben.
Hannah’s parents inflict one last family vacation on the Sampson children, a trip that goes comically wrong almost from the get-go. Hannah is forced to confront her family’s past in Disney World, of all places, when an emotional argument prompts her parents to disclose a secret they have been keeping from the children for sixteen years. Ultimately, she must decide whether to leave her hometown and not look back, or to focus on helping her family.
The Sampson family is not quite your average American family. All five of the Sampsons have their own little oddities, from dad’s obsession with damaged non-perishables to eight year old Ben’s constant sound effects. Hannah just wishes they could be a little more normal, but since that doesn’t seem like it’ll ever happen, she has her sights set on a college someplace far, far away from North Prospect. But there are things about her family that even Hannah doesn’t know.
This short little read was rather quirky. It had me snickering inwardly the whole time, mainly because I know a family that’s pretty similar to the Sampsons. Mentioning the Sampsons, each and every one of them is so downright weird that it they’re engaging in their own way. I can’t really say I connected with any of the characters, though, and most definitely not Hannah, because of which I’ll explain below.
Hannah seemed very negative during the whole story. While she and her family were definitely intriguing (something that kept drawing me back to the book), she did complain an awful lot. Her attitude added to the tension that seemed to hover over the relationships she had with her parents and brothers. I’m not going to lie- I got fed up with her at points. I wanted her to be content and happy with her family despite their quirks, but it never happened. Not even after the “climatic” Disney-World-secret-revealing extravaganza. She seemed to have a closer relationship with Ben, her brother, but she still acted hostile towards the rest of her posse, which disappointed me.
This isn’t something I would normally pick up on my own, but I took a chance with it. I didn’t completely dislike it; I surprisingly kept getting drawn back to the story (despite Hannah’s irritability, some parts were kind of humorous). I was disappointed, though, that the Sampsons never really grew to love each other deeply. I didn’t feel like the big secret was all that shocking, at least not enough to be the climax of the story. Also, I was expecting the Sampsons’ Disney trip to span the entire book, but it only lasted a few chapters. The other chapters seemed like fillers. While I did enjoy the small percentage of humor I gleaned from the story, overall I was far from captivated.