224 p. Nancy Paulsen Books/ Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated, May, 2012. 9780399256158. (Purchased)
Twelve-year-old Carly Connors ends up in foster care with the Murphys. She's recovering from a severe beating at the hands of her stepfather. Her mother remains in intensive care. She's tough and totally not interested in making any connection with any of the Murphys, but most especially, Mrs. Murphy. She cannot believe how happy this family is. Well, mostly happy because the eldest son, Daniel is very clear about how unhappy he is that his mother has opened her home to a foster kid. Mr. Murphy is not too keen on the idea either. But the two younger sons accept Carley with open arms and Mrs. Murphy shows an unlimited supply of patience while dealing with Carley's push-me-pull-you recalcitrance.
Do we really need another book about a foster kid? Well, yes. This debut is middle grade friendly without being syrupy sweet. Carley is prickly, so is Toni, the standoffish girl Carley butts heads with at her new school. The story is told by Carley and I found her voice to be filled with longing, but also cynical. She's a survivor. She is also a keen observer of body language and smart. I fell in love practically immediately although there were a few, "ah, no" moments later in the first third (and slightly tidy ending) that threatened to derail my love for the story. I got over it and appreciated how Hunt captures the many moments of a busy family both big and small. I found myself siding with Carley in her hatred of the book, The Giving Tree and sighing with frustration when she wouldn't/ couldn't let her defenses down. I loved how persistent Mrs. Murphy was. I even loved that the boys fought.
Give this one to your tween patrons who crave weepy. It's poignant and heartwarming but also funny. The cover should have instant appeal. I loved the fact that that the designers managed to include a giraffe and basket ball. But, why couldn't they manage hi-tops on the model? Picky, I know, but still important.
I Read Banned Books
I'm a bit reluctantly editing this review to add the book trailer I found. While I love the images, the violin and piano music screams hokey.