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by K.A. Holt

Pub Date: Oct. 6th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-4521-3477-2
Publisher: Chronicle Books

A boy works desperately to keep his sick little brother safe.

Twelve-year-old Timothy has a probation officer, a court-appointed psychologist, and a yearlong sentence of house arrest. He also has a 9-month-old brother who breathes through a trach tube that frequently clogs. Heavy oxygen tanks and a suction machine as loud as a jackhammer are their everyday equipment. Timothy’s crime: charging $1,445 on a stolen credit card for a month of baby Levi’s medicine, which his mother can’t afford, especially since his father left. The text shows illness, poverty, and hunger to be awful but barely acknowledges the role of, for example, weak health insurance, odd considering the nature of Timothy’s crime. The family has nursing help but not 24/7; the real house arrest in Timothy’s life isn’t a legal pronouncement, it’s the need to keep Levi breathing. Sometimes Timothy’s the only person home to do so. His court sentence requires keeping a journal; the premise that Holt’s straightforward free-verse poems are Timothy’s writing works well enough, though sometimes the verses read like immediate thoughts rather than post-event reflection. A sudden crisis at the climax forces Timothy into criminal action to save Levi’s life, but literally saving his brother from death doesn’t erase the whiff of textual indictment for lawbreaking. Even Mom equivocates, which readers may find grievously unjust.

Easy to read and strong on sibling devotion, with frustratingly mixed messages about personal responsibility.

(Verse fiction. 9-13)