Dewey's parents are on their anniversary truck drive when The Crunch happens. There's been gas rationing for a while, but nothing this bad. Suddenly, his parents are stuck up north and Dewey, his younger brother Vince and the five-year-old twins are going to be stuck with their older sister Lil for who knows how long? Plus, the little bike repair business is growing amazingly, now that it's the only transportation. Maybe it's growing too much. Just when Dewey thinks he has things under control, the thefts begin.
I loved the energy, initiative, and determination of Dewey and his younger brothers and sisters. They have a "can do" attitude and although they're not without their faults, they do the best they can. Dewey isn't a paragon and he makes a lot of big mistakes, but he works hard to fix them and be responsible. I did not like Lil. Maybe the sign of a good character is when you can really, really dislike what is, after all, a fictional personality. Lil's illogical determination to not depend on anyone for help was irritating, especially when she never seemed to do any work. Her disappointment over the cancellation of her art course and her exasperation and unhappiness at being saddled with parent responsibilities is understandable, but it rubbed me raw the way she expected everyone to bow to her artistic fits of inspiration and then tried to "take charge" when she'd done nothing to earn respect or responsibility. No, I am not particularly sympathetic to the artistic temperament. I wasn't sure from the story how much the family was depending on the money Dewey was earning, but since he and Vince were basically supporting the family, it seemed unreasonable for Lil to get mad at them for getting help, especially when she wasn't offering any herself.
Ahem. You can see how deeply these characters dig their way into the reader's emotions. There's a strong theme of optimism and hope running through the story. Although bad things happen and bad people sometimes show up, Dewey and his family's determination and responsibility, buoyed by his parents' warmth and caring, see them through The Crunch.
Verdict: I bought this one because we had Waiting for Normal (which I didn't read. I don't "do" Southern fiction of any kind if I can avoid it). I'm soooo glad I bought it! An excellent, readable, and engrossing story. Perfect for middle grade readers, it would also make a nice book club suggestion. Strongly recommended.