[I received an electronic review copy of this book from Netgalley and Atheneum Books for Young Readers in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.]
Lou and her mom are living out of their truck at a camp ground. Her mom is a waitress, for now. She’s certain that Lou’s singing will change their fortunes if she can get “discovered.” So Lou hasn’t been enrolled at school for the last year. Schools ask too many questions. And they need to easily be able to leave town when Lou’s big break comes.
Lou’s voice is as good as her mom thinks it is. But she has some quirks that can cause trouble in public situations. Lou doesn’t like to be touched or to have people watching her. Loud noises can startle her and set her off. A teacher at her last school said she was “on the spectrum.” Whatever it is, Lou feels like she is always one moment away from a meltdown no matter what she does.
An accident on a snowy night leaves Lou with a concussion – and a CPS caseworker. Her mom is being investigated for neglect, and Lou is being sent to Tennessee to live with an aunt and uncle she doesn’t know. How is she ever going to manage without the one person who actually gets her?
This book for older middle grade readers (ages 10+) was AMAZING!
First of all, it’s a foster care/found family story which I always enjoy. I loved seeing Lou cared for, seen, and heard at both her aunt’s house and at her new school. She’s in a place where she’s safe and can thrive, and I loved it.
Then there’s Lou herself. She was one of the best protagonists I have encountered this year. She may not know why she has her “meltdowns,” but she knows herself. She knows what she can handle and what’s not going to work. At the same time, though, she’s determined to push through where she can to make the most of her new situation.
The other characters are excellent, too. After Well’s first scene, I was firmly in love with this book. He’s my favorite sort of character – fun, personable, charming, and a great friend. He has his own issues which keeps him relatable, especially to Lou. I also loved the school staff who, again, SEE Lou and GET her. There are great counselors/social workers in this, and Lou’s aunt and uncle are also great.
One of my favorite things in this is the way Lou’s understanding of her mom and their relationship changes over the course of the book. Lou loves her mom. But she also recognizes her faults. And in the end she stands her ground for what she needs.
This was an absolute treat. The kids feel old for 6th grade, but I loved them too much to care. Do not miss this one! You can read a brief review of one of the author’s other books here.