Following his first book, Geography Club, Brent Hartinger has succeeded in bringing to print another great story of young people often seen as outside the norm.
Drawing on his experience working as a counselor in a group home, Hartinger has created an intense and compelling novel that explores the overwhelming odds faced by a group of adolescents caught up in the foster care system.
Lucy Pitt has been in the care system since she was seven years old. Now, at fifteen, she is the latest newcomer to Kindle House, the last placement before being sent to the notorious “eat their young” island. Lucy becomes the unlikely heroine of the story as she struggles with the rejection and aggression of care workers, teachers and fellow students. Eventually she learns to accept herself and trust others as she befriends and eventually falls in love with popular high school student, Nate Brandon.
Lucy's stay at Kindle House leads to her gradual empowerment and acceptance of other people’s love and trust. She becomes so attached to the home and members of staff that she takes it upon herself to solve the mystery of a series of car fires in their local neighborhood, and tries her hardest to prevent the home from being closed down.
“There’s a lot of misunderstandings about group homes,” Hartinger says. “With this book, I’m hoping to I can dispel some of the myths, and maybe also make people remember that not everyone starts at the same place in this life.”
Hartinger has created true-to-life characters who are up against the low opinions and expectations of neighbors, teachers, social workers, and their own judgmental peers. The story is exciting and moving. The staff at Kindle House represent a variety of attitudes prevalent within today’s care system, from Leon, the carer, who was himself a teenage resident, to Emil the critical therapist, who instead of offering empathy to Lucy, shows only resentment.
Any reader will find this book difficult to put down. Harbinger has imbued the noel with emotional intensity, opening the doors to a world seldom seem by anyone outside the system.