Life is not going well for Cora.
Ever since her Irish-immigrant father died six years ago, the 12-year-old, her Mexican-American mom, and her younger sister, Adare, who was “born special” and speaks little, have been living in a series of temporary homes—and now they’re in a grim Brooklyn shelter. Through it all Cora has persevered, getting her sister to and from school and charting (and climbing) the trees around where she’s lived, keeping up her father’s horticultural work. But she’s struggling in math, bullied, friendless, and, after their shelter room is ransacked, homeless. After her mom’s friend Willa takes them in, Cora begins to imagine a more stable life—but living with Willa would take away what little autonomy her mom still has. Cora makes friends with a classmate who lives on a houseboat, rootless but not homeless, and each uses this friendship as a path to a more satisfying life. Cora’s first-person narrative voice occasionally strays away from age-appropriate but never enough to diminish her poignant—even desperate—situation, as she strives to provide what Adare needs while chasing her own limited dreams. Even after they move into a “placement,” a gritty complex that’s too dangerous—“somewhere you can’t go after school on your own”—to be a home, challenges realistically persist.
Troubling, affecting, and ultimately uplifting, from a promising debut novelist. (Fiction. 10-14)