Yes, it does have to do with a spelling bee. But that's only one of several threads that attempt to weave this story together, and it is not in the least like the Akeelah story.
Where I was way errant was assuming this was juvenile fiction. As I read the first several mentions of intimacy, I thought either things have *really* changed in juvenile fiction, or this isn't JF. It's the latter; I had to look it up to make sure, and it's listed as adult fiction. Then I thought back to what I'd read so far and couldn't wrap my head around why anyone would enjoy this story as adult fiction anyway. To each his own, I guess.
As I said, there are several threads that the author attempts to weave together (at least I suppose she intended to weave them), but in my reader-opinion, the weave is as dysfunctional as this family is.
I almost gave up and threw it in my abandoned category but decided to push on and through and be done. So glad I've not wasted any more time on it. There's even a movie based on the book which I have *no* plans to see. I've already put this back up on PaperBackSwap to move on, but having seen there are over two hundred copies available, I'd say my copy will go to Goodwill.
Several quotes did catch my eye but I wanted to finish so badly that I didn't mark but one (and that was when I still had hope for this story). The only one I saved: