This is the second book designated for young readers that I have reviewed for the Amazon Vine program. Since I am in my seventies, with my youngest grandchild rapidly outgrowing this category, I'll admit to a certain sense of inadequacy. The genre of young peoples' literature is really completely changed; indeed, I don't believe such a category actrually existed during my own teenage. Once I learned to read, I began to delve into the types of books my own mother enjoyed, and recall primarily historical novels.
Given that fiat, Pfeffer's book is powerful and realistic. It deals in honest and straightforward terms with the circumstances in which many present-day young people find themselves, including the results of early abuse, the disparity of economic advantage between well-off and impoverished families, and the psychological challenges that accompany these circumstances. I believe that given the present sophistication of young people, the lack of sugar coating, indeed the stark realism of this story, successfully hits the mark. For youngsters involved in similar situations, it would be both gripping and therapeutic. For others, who may have been fortunate enough to avoid this level of trauma, it could provide helpful insights and perhaps induce a growth in compassion.
The story is a fast read, and although I wonder if the resolution at the end is not a bit overly optimistic, it is certainly a strong support for the message that we are hearing more and more with respect to the angst of our culture, that things DO get better if we are only willing to "hang in there". The protagonist, Willa, is portrayed with sympathy and strength, and the other characters, even her murderous father, are treated with humanity. The unavoidable conclusion is that we are all human, even the worst of us, and that love is indeed the essential ingredient that makes being human worthwhile.