Southern manners abound in this predictable debut, in which a girl on the run takes on an abandoned baby and is helped in turn by an elderly woman who owns a secondhand shop.
Sixteen-year-old Becky is a good girl who helps take care of a slew of younger siblings. But when a boy stopping by to see her inadvertently burns down her family’s barn, the anticipated wrath of her father causes her to light out—taking with her some meager savings and hopping aboard a freight train, where she discovers the baby. Overcome with tender feelings for the infant, she stumbles into the role of adoptive mom, despite having nowhere to live. While there is plenty of tension to sustain readers, including Becky’s worry that others may discover the baby is not her daughter and an eventual bid for the little girl’s custody by a local woman who has experienced a terrible tragedy, it feels melodramatic due to the overabundance of coincidences and characters that play to type. Yet, to its credit, Becky’s sweet-as-honey first-person narrative voice suits the dialogue-driven story well—she is an uncomplicated heroine, resourceful and completely without self-pity.
Teens who take a special interest in realistic fiction may want to check this one out, but its appeal otherwise will likely be limited. (Fiction. 12-16)