Sent to a foster home after a beating from her stepfather, eighth-grader Carley Connors learns about a different kind of family life, first resisting and then resisting having to leave the loving, loyal Murphys.
Carley is a modern-day Gilly Hopkins, bright and strong, angry and deeply hurt. She’s torn between her love for her mother and her memory of the fight that sent her to the hospital, when her mother caught and held her for her stepfather. Her foster-care placement is terrifying. Mr. Murphy, a fire chief, and his eldest son Daniel don’t even want her there, and Mrs. Murphy is just too nice. It is 4-year-old Michael Eric and his red-headed brother Adam who first break the ice. Slowly won over at home by the boys’ open affection and Mrs. Murphy’s patience and surprising understanding, Carley also finds a friend at school in the prickly, Wicked-obsessed Toni. The first-person narration allows readers inside Carley’s head as she fights against both showing emotion and her growing pleasure in belonging to their world. There’s plenty of snappy dialogue as well. By the end of this poignant debut, readers will be applauding Carley’s strength even if they’re as unhappy as Carley is about the resolution.
A worthy addition to the foster-family shelf. (Fiction. 10-14)