Seen through the eyes of three seventh-graders, a prison escape upends daily life in a small Adirondack town.
Wolf Creek’s economy revolves around its maximum security prison. Nora’s dad is its superintendent; Lizzie’s grandma works in the kitchen; Elidee’s brother is an inmate. Nora and Lizzie, white, are best friends. Arriving in this very white town with her mother two weeks before school ends, Elidee, black, feels isolated. She and her mother only moved to Wolf Creek because she didn’t get into an elite private school back in New York City. Nora first finds her unfriendly. Elidee’s reluctance to join in shows of support for the corrections staff, police, and volunteers engaged in the manhunt affronts her. With Lizzie’s help she opens her eyes to the slights, subtle and overt, Elidee endures from some local whites. Most townspeople and prison staff are white; most inmates are black and Latinx. The manhunt broadens, reaching Lizzie’s family and severely straining it. Elidee pours her anger and unhappiness into writing poetry, discovering her authentic voice. The story unfolds in time-capsule entries. Press clippings, text messages, and voice recordings effectively convey the racism hiding in plain sight, while the girls’ letters provide the narrative throughline. Not all entries work—Owen’s repetitive cartoons add little—but the format underlines the breakout’s communitywide impact.
A sensitive coming-of-age tale about waking up to injustice and where that knowledge can lead. (author’s note, bibliography) (Fiction. 9-14)