A former foster child deals with love and loss and love again.
The hints are abundant. Twelve-year-old Ben, who has taken most of his life lessons from reading Star Wars stories, is the adoptive son of a loving and understanding but elderly lesbian. The charming mite of a stray dog that adopts the white boy is also old. Most worryingly, the endearingly depicted Halley, his fully rounded new best friend, also white and the daughter of a so-perceptive librarian and a funny magician, is undergoing chemotherapy. What could go wrong here? After he discovers his dead mom on the floor, Ben’s remote but well-intentioned aunt and abusive, bumbling uncle, the pair constantly at odds, become his reluctant new parents. What resilient, generous Ben, in a lifetime of foster care punctuated by loss, hasn’t learned is how to believe in the lasting power of love. It’s irrepressible Halley, her health faltering, and her gentle parents who teach him how to cope with loss without forgetting how to love, even when that love is perilous. Together he and Halley compose an otherworldly tale, The Magic Box, that’s a parable of their lives. Those familiar with Griffin’s books for teens know that Kleenex may be needed to successfully navigate this wrenching journey, which breathes fresh, warm life into what might have been an overworked cliché.
Entrancing, magical, tragic, and uplifting. (Fiction. 10-14)