A young teen copes with loss by helping an older, homeless teen.
It’s late December, and 14-year-old Molly is walking around Santa Monica in the middle of the night, filling school-assigned community-service hours. Her task is counting (not helping) homeless people for the city, but a particular homeless girl captures her imagination, and their lives entwine. Molly yearns to send 18-year-old Red back to wherever her home might be, because, as Sones slowly reveals, Molly knows what it does to a family when a child disappears. Her older brother disappeared a year ago, and she blames herself. Now she feels triggered and guilty when anyone disappears, even briefly, whether it’s Red, Cristo (Molly’s new, requited crush), or Pixel, Molly’s emotional service dog whom she “sort of inherited” from her brother. Molly’s free-verse, first-person narration is smooth and fast, though weakened by exclamation marks. Red is both zany, given to dancing in public, and mentally ill—a sort of Manic Pixie Dream Disabled Girl, especially considering Molly’s conviction that Red saves her. Both Red and Molly are white; although Molly is Jewish, Christmas figures prominently, including a scary re-creation of a scene from It’s a Wonderful Life. Most of Molly’s innocent assumptions about Red’s homelessness turn out to be true, and the conclusion leans toward wish-fulfillment.
A heart-tugging, romanticized, mutual-savior story about homelessness and mental illness. (Verse fiction. 12-15)