A family relocates to a former mill town, lured by the opportunity to reset their lives by starting a business and purchasing a run-down house for $1.
Budding middle school artist Lowen Grover is still full of grief and guilt over the random shooting of a friend when his family agrees to apply to an experimental program sponsored by the small, declining factory town of Millville. In exchange for a handful of dilapidated homes offered to young families for practically nothing, the town gets to add new students to their school and sports activities and new businesses to their economic base. Lowen, his siblings, and the cohort of other newcomers come to be known as “the Dollar Kids,” as some of the Millvillian residents see them as impoverished “moochers.” The Grovers are white, while Lowen’s new friend, Sami, is Indian-American, and his minor love interest, Luna, is Latina. Jacobson insightfully examines the dynamics of small-town life and strategies for revitalization as well as the landscape of Lowen’s complex grief and survivor’s guilt. The story incorporates Lowen’s graphic-novel panels contemplating his feelings about his deceased friend, Abe, whom he calls “the unseen force,” including ecumenical references to heaven and hell. The story kicks into its rightful pace by midbook.
A rich, thoughtful exploration of individual and community resilience. (Fiction. 10-14)