Two authors combine their efforts to relate the intertwined tales of a pair of young teens in trouble.
Sierra’s first-person voice spills out of the pages in verse. With her alcoholic mother serving time in jail, she’s placed in the home of a loving, well-to-do interracial couple, Anne and Carl, whose daughter died years before. Lauren lives right next door. Her older, autistic brother has recently been enrolled at a therapeutic boarding school, and she’s deeply resentful of her parents’ well-meaning (if distancing) handling of his issues. In response, she decides to raise money to treat less-wealthy kids with autism, an outstanding intent followed by poor management. First, she sells expensive gifts she’s received. She also begins to steal her parents’ things to sell, but after getting caught, she moves on to the belongings of friends and neighbors as well as to shoplifting. Unfortunately, she implicates Sierra, whom she’s tenderly befriended, in her activities by storing the proceeds in Anne and Carl’s deceased child’s bedroom. Lauren’s more complicated and disturbing tale is related in her first-person prose narrative, the two writing styles clearly delineating the two white seventh-graders. Sierra emerges the more sympathetic of the pair, with Lauren’s unattractive behavior (or compulsion) never fully understandable, perhaps even to her.
Many of the complications of human behavior are on display here, some of them painful to navigate. (Fiction. 11-14)