Age Range: 11 - 13
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A girl’s odyssey through, and ultimate understanding of, the life of a boy whose only crime was being born into the wrong family becomes a powerful tale of redemption from Grove (Rimwalkers, 1993, etc.), written with grace. Almost everyone in the Missouri farming community where sixth-grader Carly lives hates and fears the Groats, who live along a swamp, close to a vile and stinking landfill. The men of the clan are hard-drinking, gun-toting types, painted as caring little for civilized society and its rules. As part of a class assignment, a horrified Carly has to interview Dustin Groat; he’s not very clean, fairly surly—a loner who comes to school wearing a small pin in his knuckle. In the course of the interview, Carly begins to question her classmates’ treatment of Dustin, and to solve some mysteries: why her third-grade teacher, after a run-in with Dustin’s father, left town in the middle of the school year, and why Dustin needs a network of hiding places. Worst of all, Carly recalls what she did to Dustin in third grade that so humiliated him that he was forever changed from a boy grieving over his mother’s suicide to a “melted,” broken creature. Among a cast of memorable characters, Dustin is obviously pitiable but also noble: Small hurts and large ones culminate until there is only an outcast who is not without dignity, and a savior who is not without culpability—it’s all very human, and brimming with compassion. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 18th, 1998
ISBN: 0-399-23008-4
Page count: 200pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1998


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