A teen activist takes on Big Coal.
When 17-year-old Liberty Briscoe's mother is arrested for taking part in a protest that turned violent, Lib reluctantly leaves her exclusive school in Washington, D.C., and moves back to Ebbotsville, Kentucky, to live with her grandmother. She's shocked by how frail her granny has become and even more so by the neon-orange well water that pours out of her faucet. The water's gone funny since Peabody Mining took the top off a nearby mountain, but it's been tested and shown to be safe to drink. Liberty has her doubts, especially after her granny is diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. Along with Dobber, the lumbering son of a local meth addict, and snarky Ashleigh, niece to the owner of Peabody Mining, she sets out to discover the truth and extract revenge. Lib is a finely-drawn character, and the dialogue and pacing of this debut are strong. Less well-developed is the tension between Lib and what she calls her Former Mother. The evil mine owner strays too far into subhuman territory, and the plot—adolescent environmentalists brave Big Coal—has been seen too often. There must be another story to tell about Appalachia.
A skillful rendition of a trope. (Fiction. 14-18)