Philadelphia high school who doesn’t care about the prom. It’s pretty much the only good thing that happens there, and everyone plans to make the most of it—especially Ash’s best friend, Natalia, who’s the head of the committee and has prom stars in her eyes. Then the faculty advisor is busted for taking the prom money and Ash finds herself roped into putting together a gala dance. But she has plenty of help—from her large and loving (if exasperating!) family, from Nat’s eccentric grandmother, from the principal, from her fellow classmates. And in making the prom happen, Ash learns some surprising things about making her life happen, too.
Ashley has enough problems in her life already, starting with the complexities of her crowded but loving working class family -- her extremely pregnant mother and her three exuberant and prom-crazy aunts, and her cab-driving father and three younger brothers, who think nothing of happily trashing the kitchen in a game of hot dog baseball. Then there’s Mr. Gilroy, the evil vice principal of discipline, who has Ashley on endless detention, her awful job at EZ-CHEEZ-E, where she has trouble seeing the customers through the eyeholes of her rat costume, and her good-looking but lowlife boyfriend TJ, who wants her to join him in a future as depressing as the dank one-room apartment he has so proudly rented for them. Not to speak of Nat’s loony grandmother, who wears her red bathing cap even when she’s not doing the backstroke in a wading pool, babbles at Ashley in Russian, and spits on the floor to show her disapproval.
But in the end it’s grandma with her skill at baking (pastries to bribe the custodians) and sewing (a magical prom dress) who saves both the prom and Ashley’s belief in herself and her future in this delightful and heartfelt novel. --Patty Campbell