A young teen loner gradually learns to accept the friendship of an outspoken girl in this problem novel filled with likable, idiosyncratic characters.
Travis is filled with sullen resentment toward his recovering alcoholic grandfather, who moved them away from their old house despite Travis’s devastation having to leave behind his lost dog, Rosco. At his new school, Travis is surprised to land on the radar of confident, kind Velveeta, and he increasingly looks forward to her friendly overtures each day, even as he worries that she might discover a secret of which he's deeply ashamed. In the meantime, Velveeta struggles with family trouble of her own and with the loss of a dear friend. A cast of richly developed characters peoples this work of contemporary fiction, told in the third person from Travis' point of view, with first-person vignettes from Velveeta's perspective peppered throughout. An ongoing reference to Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief (2006) serves the themes of this novel well. Both teens have adults outside of their families whom they are able to trust, but at times these adults feel a little too heart-of-gold idealized—sadly, it's somehow hard to picture a public librarian actually giving a key to the building to a kid whose home isn't a safe place. Fortunately, these clichéd moments are brief.
A story rife with unusual honesty and hope. (Fiction. 12-16)