Groth, a former special education teacher, introduces readers to a sympathetic main character who is trying to move through trauma and to a sparkling supporting cast that gives voice to disability.
White Canadian 16-year-old Munro Maddux is trying to free himself from the Coyote, which is what he calls the thoughts in his head that constantly remind him of all his failings—in particular, how he failed to save his 13-year-old sister, Evie, who had Down syndrome and a heart defect, from dying the year before. A student exchange program to Australia is just the ticket toward healing, and Munro hopes that when he returns home he’ll have left the Coyote Down Under. As he gets to know his host family and starts volunteering at Fair Go Community Village, connecting with its special needs residents, his plan seems to be working. But is the Coyote gone or just prowling? Readers may find Munro’s journey and character development awfully linear, but his first-person narration is strong (both sassy and heart-wrenching) and the thoughtful handling of trauma and difference, both genuine and relevant.
Characters that will steal readers’ hearts with their humor and resilience, smooth writing, and a satisfying and hopeful ending make this a book to enjoy both emotionally and critically. (Fiction. 12-18)