Foster care, adventure, and being a big sister.
Neveah has been in the foster care system her whole life, and has seen less than optimal placements. That's why she's glad to be with Mrs. K. The house is fairly organized, there is always food, and no one is mean to her. Mrs. K., however, has struggled since the death of her husband and is not very interested in being involved with the children, so a lot of the care of the younger Mara and Vic falls on her shoulders. She's okay with that-- if she can help Mrs. K. out, her place is secure, and she can make it through the four years of high school and get into college on a scholarship for foster children and become a doctor. When a new child, Quentin, is added to the mix, things start to get complicated. It's difficult enough that Vic deals with his grief by pretending to be a spy, and that Mara rarely speaks, and is more fluent in Spanish, but Quentin is on the autism spectrum and has a lot of different behavioral issues than Neveah has seen. When Vic promises Quentin that they will go find his mother, who is ill and in the hospital, Neveah panics when all three younger children are gone, and follows their trail from Echo Park to Torrance, California (about twenty miles) on a variety of buses and trains. She catches up with them eventually, but the trip in general does not go smoothly. The children find out some secrets, narrowly escape tragedy, and bond in a way that makes them more of a family. They also finally get through to Mrs. K., who realizes that she must move beyond her own difficulties to care for the children.
There are many different types of experience in foster care, and it's good to have a variety of books like Linda Mullaly Hunt's One for the Murphy's, Galante's Strays Like Us, and Lewis' Scarlet Ibis. There were portions of this that seemed odd to me (Nevaeh describes the people who foster children as either very religious, in it for the money, or old, and she describes a placement where children were forced to make dog beds after school each day before being fed. I'm sure there are horrible foster parents out there, and since Hennessy works with children in foster care in LA, so I will assume she knows more about children in the program than I do. In reality, there are probably some foster care situations that are even worse than the ones Nevaeh mentions.
This book will circulate with readers who like problem novels. This author's other book, The Other Boy does well, and I'm looking forward to seeing what book is next!