A 13-year-old girl flees her abusive home to live secretly in her school.
Jewel tolerates her parents’ abuse, from the theft of her babysitting money to outright violence, in order to protect her developmentally disabled kid brother. When one of her dad’s drunken friends tries to rape her, her parents turn a blind eye. Jewel knows that she needs to run away for her own safety. She spends 10 days roughing it before she runs out of carefully hoarded food and returns to town—and to school. Jewel attends classes by day and sleeps in the art-room supply cupboard at night. Maya and Lily, two well-off girls, notice her odd behavior and seek her out. In alternating sections, Maya and Jewel share their perspectives on Jewel’s solo adventure. Though Maya’s aid is invaluable, it also leads to Jewel’s discovery by adults. Maya and Jewel, who both appear to be white, come from sharply different social classes. With no other poor families present in the story, the poverty of Jewel’s parents becomes inextricably tied to their abuse. Their bad grammar, cursing, cigarette smoking, motorcycles, and clothing (“way too young for a mother, cleavage,” thinks Maya) all paint a lazily stereotyped picture of criminal trash, in opposition to the kindly rich parents found elsewhere. When Jewel’s situation is wrapped up tidily, that frees Maya up for her next rescue project: a Syrian refugee.
The tale of Jewel’s determined struggle is moving but weakened by Maya’s bad case of savior-itis. (Fiction. 9-11)