“We have to do something,” I said to Rory as soon as we were out of the car.
“What do you mean? Everything is planned for us,” he said. “Today it’s Lets make a mask day.” He used his fingers as quotation marks.
“Not about camp.” I snapped. “About Dad. And Rebecca.”
Rory pushed up his glasses and squinted at me. He had a completely brainless look on his face. I started to explain what I meant, but just then Trevor, another camp volunteer, hip-checked Rory. He started howling in laughter as Rory lurched forward.
Then Trevor turned to me and said, “Hiii, Jill-i-an.” He went to hip-check me too, but I moved out of the way. So instead, Trevor grabbed Rory and put him in a headlock. Rory squirmed and got away, then turned and rammed into him headfirst. They both laughed and wrestled like bear cubs. I’m sorry but I had to roll my eyes.
When a novel begins with twin siblings eating a stomach-churning breakfast – the eggs are described as Jello that ‘hasn’t set properly’ - your first emotional response to the scene wouldn’t normally be a warm one, especially when you learn that the kids are at the kitchen table with a recently widowed parent, but that is exactly the tone of Just Three. Their breakfast has been cooked for them by a housekeeper, Rebecca, chosen for them by their mother before she died, and each sibling deals with the breakfast disaster in their own way, giving the reader an opportunity to get to know them very quickly. Author Lorna Schutlz Nicholson perfectly balances their ongoing grief with the family life they are trying to maintain in this marvelous story about one family’s summer.
Jillian and Rory are 13-year-old twins with a caring, good-natured father who works as a biology professor at the local university. Their story is told through the eyes of Jillian. After their mother dies, she becomes extra protective of her father and brother even though she often finds Rory’s sense of humour and unflappable nature aggravating. She is a worrier and a planner while her brother is more likely to enjoy what life has to offer, and this contrast is obvious when they choose birthday gifts for their father. Rory buys a brilliantly coloured Hawaiian shirt, and Jillian, thinking that her father might be lonely without their mother, signs him up for an online dating service called ‘Organic Love’. To please Jillian, he agrees to go on three dates to see how if it will work. The children work with their father to set up his dating profile with Rory a reluctant helper and Jillian a constant cheerleader.
Despite careful research and planning, each meeting with a potential mate ends terribly, and their father considers ending the experiment all together. Jillian is determined that he should continue after each failed date, especially when she sees how well he gets along with Rebecca and her children, and Rory supports her but just wants to enjoy his summer vacation. Although they are busy trying to find their father the perfect match, they are also volunteering at a local summer camp, playing soccer, swimming and spending time with other volunteers at the camp. Although Jillian usually finds it hard to relax, she is able to have fun with her brother and their friends when they go out and can occasionally forget her matchmaking duties.
Some of Jillian and Rory’s plans for their father work out, some end horribly, and some are left to the reader’s imagination. Just Three is a book that doesn’t end the way that the reader expects, and each chapter helps to make this family one to care about. There are wonderful, hopeful moments throughout this story about three characters who feel genuine, and the overall feel of the book is one of warmth and humour. Jillian and Rory are characters readers will wish they could read about again in a future book.
Penny McGill is a library assistant with an enthusiastic reading habit at the Waterloo Public Library in Waterloo, Ontario.