Stevenson, well-known for his lighthearted picture books, has written a surprisingly gritty novel that, with its economy of language, can easily be enjoyed by readers younger than its intended audience. Pete, 11, and his angry, drunken father have traveled around the country, hiding from a man Pete's father fears. Now they have ended up in the small town on Cutlass Island, where Pete's job is to meet every ferry and alert his father if the man shows up. Meantime he meets Rootie, a fearless female extrovert, who shows him hidden places on the island and who is his first confidante. Narrated by Pete, it is Rootie's character who really shines; she is the kind of friend every shy child needs, whose friendship only grows stronger in troubled times. Brooding and suspenseful, yet filled with wonderful moments that keenly demonstrate the way children really play together, the story moves quickly towards a violent resolution, dropping hints about Pete's difficult past like bread crumbs along the way. It should be a hit with reluctant readers and middle graders alike who are ready for a bit of realism and tension.