I was just in the mood to read about a couple of kids getting into massive trouble! I think I'll count this as a 'new' friend; it was published in 2005 so I've only read it maybe 5 times.
Conrad is only about 12, and his manipulative uncle sends him off to Stallery castle to get a job as a servant, telling him that the awful Fate hanging over him will kill him soon unless he does the task he's meant to do -- which is to kill an unknown villain that he failed to kill in his last life. On his way to be hired, Christopher joins the group and both boys are hired as apprentice valets. In between the hours they spend learning to be perfect servants, Christopher searches for his missing friend, Millie, and Conrad tries to understand what's going on. They team up to find out who is pulling the possibilities -- changing reality for profit.
This is such a fun story, with lots of running around and comedy. DWJ shows us her own take on an Upstairs, Downstairs setup and it's wonderful, as well as opening Christopher's eyes to how the other half lives in his own home. The actual Family consists of just three people: the Countess and her two adult children, and a skeletal staff has over 50 people to look after them.
The Countess is a trademark DWJ mother -- the super-feminine kind who manipulates everyone through hurt feelings and wide-eyed, soft bewilderment. She is forever asking "But why?" and hiding her venom under sweetness. Conrad's mother is the other side of the coin. She is a feminist author and neglects everything else, especially her children, while expecting them to do exactly what she wants. Both the Countess and Conrad's mother treat their children like possessions, not like people.
I wonder, as well, whether Stallery itself is another, similar type. It's not that DWJ gives the house a personality; the butler, Mr. Amos, supplies all of that. His sole obsession is to make Stallery into the perfect estate, with everything exactly as it should be. He is the 'face' of Stallery, I suppose, but Stallery is hungry. Built on a probability fault, it's inherently unstable and takes more money, more staff, more of everything every year. Mr. Amos, too, treats people like possessions to be sacrificed in service of a house.
I love this one.