Wendy Lamb/Penguin, April, 2020 224 pages
"The List of Things That Will Not Change" is written in a notebook given to Bea two years ago by her parents as they announce their divorce, brought about by the Dad's discovery that he is gay. Now it is the present day and Dad is planning his wedding to Jesse, bringing Bea not only a stepfather, but an aunt she adores and a new sister. As an only child Bea has always longed for a sister, yet Sonia seems difficult to get to know, even though they are the same age. To complicate matters Bea's cousin is suffering from Bells-Palsy and she feels responsible from an incident that happened the summer before. Bea struggles with anxiety and eczema, which seems to flare up when under stress. Visits with her therapist seem to help, yet she still has a hard time adjusting to change and is sensitive to the needs of others. Will this wedding be the joyous occasion Bea hopes it will be or will external factors, other family members, and Bea’s anxiety mar the happy event?
Stead generally writes layered stories that contain a fantastical element or a mystery. This is a sweet linear story that is character driven and delivers exactly what is promised. Readers will enjoy getting to know Bea, who truly feels like a friend by book's end. Bea is a fully realized character who suffers from worry and ill-placed guilt. Many children will sympathize and relate to her. The chapters are short with interesting names and the book reads quickly. Though the plot is simple and quiet, the story is enchanting and I could not put it down. This is the second book in a row that I have read with a divorce/gay father, proving that this is an issue that many children are currently dealing with. Growing up in the 1970's, divorce became common, yet there were few books previously written on the topic. Suddenly, the market was flooded. Kids are still struggling with divorce, yet in new and different ways, and the market is reflecting this. In both recent books the divorce is extremely friendly and the child is protected and emotional needs are met. This is a positive example for the best way to dissolve a family and Bea is made to feel safe and loved at both of her homes. Stead also deals with issues of anxiety (a wide-spread problem in today's children) and misplaced guilt in a reassuring manner. Although a terrific book to hand to kids in similar situations, all readers will enjoy spending time with Bea and her family.