A gritty portrait of teens and children living on the street suffers from a too-tidy ending.
Maddie has been living on the street since her mom's boyfriend started hitting her. After leaving a manipulative church service, she meets Q, another street kid, who offers to let Maddie sleep in his car. Though at first suspicious, Maddie says yes: Q will ask fewer questions than the well-meaning shelter director who wants to reunite kids with their families, and the piece of glass Maddie keeps in her pocket will protect her if need be. As Maddie grows to trust Q, the two forge a sort of family together. An abandoned child soon falls under their care; they rent a squalid apartment from an exploitative slumlord; and a skittish 12-year-old, first offered to Q in a poker bet, slowly warms up to them too. Day-to-day existence is rendered in believable and exhausting detail. Maddie and Q acquire food, manage the stresses of caring for a child and attempt to make enough money to get by. Despite both young people's certainty that foster care would be a worse solution than the life they've cobbled together, the book ends with a sudden turnaround that implies that adults and institutions can always save lives like Maddie's.
A sadly simplistic finish mars an otherwise complex survival story. (Fiction. 14 & up)