Young girls in distress are sympathetic characters, the down-and-out whose resiliency buys them a hard-won one-way ticket to the future; not only does Ellen Foster come to mind, but also Ruth Ann, the young protagonist of Dorothy Allisonís Bastard Out of Carolina, another environmentally challenged young character. Inspirational and thought-provoking, such works of fiction offer hope in a too often hopeless world.
In this sequel to the popular Ellen Foster, it is three years later and the now fifteen-year-old Ellen is on the road to higher education, having written a letter to the Dean of Harvard requesting early admission.
Meanwhile, life goes on and Ellen grapples with the usual government interference with the aid of her foster mother, Laura. In the throes of early adolescent angst, Ellen will face more than the usual hurdles, including long-hidden family secrets and a dose of tragedy that will test even this resourceful young womanís mettle.
A sequel is a risk, depending on the new material and the life direction of the protagonist. In Ellenís case, there is a tendency toward over-wrought preciousness (think Elsie Dinsmore of the early 1800s, now undergoing a renaissance in the new millennium). Ellenís voice hasnít changed much in three years, her Dickensian drudgery turned to a natural distrust of promised opportunity, given the governmentís role in her daily survival.
After the debut of Ellen Foster, it was clear that this girl qualified as a survivor. Facing unexpected revelations in this volume, Ellen sorts through a confusing history, prepared to make her way in an often unfriendly world. This young lady possesses extraordinary internal resources, along with supportive friends who want her to succeed.
Working from a more self-confidant and secure perspective, Ellen wields the tools of one who is determined to make her way through life on lifeís terms. Given a hearty dose of heartbreak and wish fulfillment, Ellen proves the exception, her future one to savor: ďI told Laura, I bet I can do this, donít you think?Ē Absent the drama and poignancy of the first novel, this follow-up fails to ignite the imagination for adult readers, but may find an attentive audience in other adolescents who are struggling with a vision for the future.