Review Detail

 
Kids Fiction
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A

Timely story about what makes "home"

Rachel's summer is not off to a good start; her parents don't remember her 13th birthday right away, and new neighbors move in across from her family's run down farm. They are very wealthy, and while Rachel is angry that their new home took away the sledding hill she always used, she is somewhat interested in a summer job taking care of their rescue animals, since it pays better and is less stressful than babysitting bratty young neighbors. She's glad of the money, since her parents seem to be struggling quite a bit. Rachel tries to be more helpful, taking care of her younger sister Ivy and trying not to complain about the lack of food in the house. She has a good friend, Micah, who has been by her side for years. Unfortunately, Micah "like" likes her, and she doesn't feel that way about Micah. In fact, after an encounter at a pool party with Evan, she is reminded that she really doesn't have any romantic feelings towards boys at all. Micah is okay with that, but angry that she kissed Evan and not him. Rachel's time is spent working on the neighbors farms and hanging out with friends, including Cybil, who seems really nice, but her mind is occupied with the increasingly unstable situation at home. When her parents finally let her know that they have to sell the house, Rachel isn't happy, but tries to make the best of the situation. Her friends rally around her, she manages to get her pony, Rainbow, placed with her neighbors, and life continues even though bad things happen.

Good Points
There are lots of good details about living in the country and farm chores, which young readers who don't live in the country will find fascinating. I especially appreciate the explanation of the chain of circumstances that lead the family to have to sell their house and move into low income housing. Rachel's questioning of her sexual identity is lightly done, which I think is appropriate for books for middle school students. Her friendship with Micah is sweet, and her attempts at being a better sister and daughter are touching. This book moves along very quickly in an interesting way. I enjoyed this a lot.

Rachel sometimes complains about details of her impoverished upbringing in a way that may be enlightening to some readers. While I raised my daughters in a neighborhood where children ride beat up bicycles and shopping at the thrift store is what everyone does, and I frequently make a mean scalloped tuna and saltine casserole, this will be completely alien to some very fortunate children.

This hits that hard-to-define sweet spot of sad but hopeful books that my students enjoy. The sense of place and cover are great, and I can see this being very popular! Pair this with Tyre's Hope in the Holler, Applegate's Crenshaw, Braden's The Benefits of Being an Octopus or Jacobson's The Dollar Kids.
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