It is the summer of 1944. Junior’s father is off fighting war in Europe. He and his mother live with Junior’s grandparents, and things are more than tense at home, especially with his mother’s frustration with his father’s incessant absence. Billy feels a strange kinship with his mother, especially with his grandmother constantly wary of the latter’s elusive ways. The summer seems exciting after the boys plan to put on a home-grown circus. Gutteridge weaves an atmospheric tale that plays Junior’s carefree disposition against his mother’s relentless longing and Gram’s practicality. Gutteridge’s characters are thoroughly convincing and consistently realistic in their interactions: they sound like actual people, with their hopes, dreams, aspirations, insecurities, fears, and struggles. Gutteridge’s prose is expert and lyrical, creating a YA coming-of-age story that is realistic in its mundane goings-on. Friendship, connections among family, and teenage desires, passion, and angst are presented thoughtfully. While there is no shortage of novels offering a realistic vision of the World War II era, this one manages to stand out both in its realism and its portrayal of individual and familial struggles in the face of the war. An affecting YA coming-of-age tale that manages to feel both urgent and timeless.