Told from the perspective of 15-year-old Rufus (Roof) Peters, author Betty Jane Hegerat’s Odd One Out is the story of how his family weathers and survives the revelation of long-held secrets.
Life in the Peters household is realistically happy. Roof is immersed in the joys and trials of adolescence – a desire for independence, the experience of first love, affectionately bickering with his twin sister. The kids love and respect their parents and vice versa. At worst, Roof’s parents are mildly overprotective, which he tolerates with minimal eye rolling. Then a mysterious young woman appears at the Peters’ door. As her ties with the family are revealed, Roof is forced to renconcile his perception of his parents with what he learns of their past. Ultimately, he must rethink what it means to be a family.
The great strength of this story is its relatability. Hegerat has created a cast of characters with which one can easily identify, including the lovable teenaged protagonist. The narration blends realistic adolescent reactions with adult reflections, allowing each to better understand the other, and making it a good fit for readers on both sides of the age of majority.
However, while the descriptions of situations, emotions, and reactions are spot on, the complete absence of foul language in the teenagers’ conversations is harder to believe. This is a very minor shortcoming and doesn’t detract from the overall impact, but slightly grittier dialogue would have made the reader’s integration into Roof’s world even more seamless.
Odd One Out is highly recommended for parents and educators looking to find common ground with young people, as well as anyone looking for a satisfying story that reinforces the importance of family.