When dad goes into Dictator Mode, there’s no way to know how far or to whom his rage will extend. More often than not, someone winds up hurt.
This pattern of violence is normal for 15-year-old Miguel, his older sister, Ellie, and their mother. When Miguel’s father goes too far, severely injuring his mother and nearly killing their dog, it is time for his mother to act on her secret plan to take them all to a shelter for victims of domestic violence. Miguel is confused. He fears his father yet feels guilty for leaving. He wonders what kind of a man he is becoming—is he more like his father than he wants to be? The story follows the family through their stay at the shelter, dealing with the courts and making arrangements to live on their own. Text-message conversations reveal how the family’s problems affect everyone’s outside relationships, particularly Ellie’s relationship with her boyfriend, who displays many of her father’s worst traits. The issue-driven plot is fairly predictable and lacks nuance. The characters are underdeveloped, and some, particularly minority characters, border on stereotype. However, for young readers facing the issue of domestic violence at home, this narrative could offer some hope.
Though not particularly well-executed, this novel has value for the tough subject matter it addresses. (Fiction. 12-15)