Earl tries to keep R.D. out of trouble and encourage him to stick with it at school, but he has some serious health issues dating back to his exposure to Agent Orange during his time in Vietnam. Ever since R.D.'s grandmother left, Earl has been having more frequent attacks that leave him gasping for breath and sending R.D. in search of his inhaler. Just a few short weeks into the school year, R.D. gets off the bus and discovers Earl on the bathroom floor, dead.
With no way to contact his grandmother and no one else to turn to, R.D. decides to try to handle things himself. He deals with the funeral home people, handles the questions from nosy neighbors, and manages through trial and error to keep himself feed and the bills paid. Surprisingly, this forced independence turns R.D. into a more reliable student at school and has him learning things about life he never would have thought possible.
MESSED UP by Janet Nichols Lynch is a heart-warming and riveting read. R.D. starts out as an underachieving, gangster wannabe who turns his life around through hard work and determination. Readers will learn right along with him as he deals with the everyday, practical aspects of survival. He learns to shop for groceries and clothes and teaches himself how to cook and clean. For someone who pretty much let the world just happen around him, he takes on the challenge of making his own way and succeeds. MESSED UP is an excellent addition to any library or classroom collection.