Throughout Defining Dulcie, I was reminded of Joan Bauer and oddly enough, Because of Winn-Dixie. Imagine my delight at finding JB and KD at the top of the acknowledgments page. (YES! I am SO SMART! I love those moments.)
Anyway. I loved it. Let me expand: I loved it, I loved it, I loved it.
Like D.J. Schwenk, Dulcie is the antithesis of the rich Gossip Girl type. She is no brand-name slinging privileged princess. She's also not a cringing orphan or a single teen mom or a downtrodden social outcast.
She's just Dulcie. She knows who she is, and she certainly knows that she doesn't want to be in California:
America is big. REALLY big. It reaches farther, wider, and taller than they ever tell you in school or that you'd ever guess from just looking at it on a map. And if I didn't notice the huge stretch of miles between Connecticut and California on the long drive westward, I sure noticed it a few weeks later when I stole Dad's truck and drove back to Newbury all by myself.
I didn't just love Dulcie. I loved her whole family:
(No, Roxanne isn't technically related. But I'm counting her anyway.)
I know that I've been comparing authors to Joan Bauer left and right lately, but what can I do? Dulcie has that same strong work ethic that Bauer heroines traditionally have, and she has that same strong interest in what she does, too. The book is also an excellent comfort read.
As for the Winn-Dixie comparison: Not only does it deal with loss, but Defining Dulcie is chock-full of quirky, lovable characters—emphasis on lovable. I don't mean some sort of Care Bears cheesy cutesy lovable. I mean that it seems like Paul Acampora poured his heart into his story, and it comes pouring back out again when you read it.
It made me happy—happyhappyhappy—but tearfully, achy happy, the way that Winn-Dixie did. And there's no dog, which, in books, is always a plus for me.