Annie and Buster Fang are the children of notorious performance artists Caleb and Camille Fang. Caleb and Camille like to create small public performance art that can sometimes lead to arrests and hopefully, a mention in a local newspaper. At the beginning of the book every other chapter is a recounting of an artistic piece. Annie accusing her mother (who she pretends is a stranger) of stuffing her coat with jelly beans. As their mother then opens her coat and the jelly beans fall out, Buster enjoins all the kids to stuff their mouths with jelly beans causing a small melee in the shop. Meanwhile their father is outside of the shop filming with a hidden camera. Even if there is no mention of the event, the senior Fangs like to think about the stories all of the people at the shop will talk about with their families. Many times it is art for art's sake.
Both Annie and Buster can't wait to leave home as they grow older. They tire of the performances. Annie goes to Los Angeles to become an actor, and Buster writes stories and novels. But events in their lives force both of them to come back home to live. Buster gets into a fight and has to recuperate at their parents house. While Annie, becomes tabloid fodder and needs to disappear for a while since no one will hire her. Their parents are thrilled as the old performance art gang is back together and they can have the performance pieces of their lives.
Part of the problem for Annie and Buster is that any choice they make is perceived as performance art because of their parents. This dismays Annie because she realizes that everything she does will be perceived through this filter of art. All of her good and bad decisions will be art. One of the comments Buster makes near the end is that their parents prepared them for bad choices because all of the art that their parents were creating was people making bad choices. And therefore, their parents gave them a gift in not fearing bad choices. Annie is not so sure.
This novel really makes you think about what is art? Can a life be art? Are all lives performance pieces? Is art the act of creating the piece? Or is everyone who has to respond a part of it, and are they also artists? This novel has some very funny moments in it as Annie and Buster try to escape their upbringing. But as Buster points out, they were also given some very important skills for navigating through life. A very readable book.