From School Library Journal
Grade 5–8—The lone African American in her Nevada junior high school, sixth-grader Ella struggles with self-image, bullying, and shifting friendships. Tormented by the vitiligo on her face, she shuns mirrors and feels ostracized. Her one true friend is Zachariah (Z), a homeless loner classmate whose imaginative fantasies mask his troubled emotional state. When Bailey James, also African American, enrolls in her school and befriends Ella, her world begins to change. Ella is drawn to Bailey's popularity and friendship but doesn't want to lose Z. When he disappears, Ella and Bailey secretly hop a bus to Las Vegas to find him. Along the way, Ella discovers that Bailey has secrets and fears of his own. The three children have maternal support and love but miss their fathers. Ella's died young; Z's, a gambler, abandoned his family; and Bailey's soldier father is in treatment for PTSD. Ella's coming-of-age narrative reveals her growing awareness of the complexities of life and the burdens each person carries. Magoon writes with insight, wit, and compassion. Characters are appealing; action is well paced; and adolescent angst is palpable. Although Ella's skin condition and Z's psychological problems are not clearly defined, the trauma of both is conveyed. Ella is caught between a desire to hang out with Bailey and the popular crowd or remain loyal to eccentric Z, and her actions, musings, and guilt will resonate with readers.—Gerry Larson, Durham School of the Arts, NC
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Ella, Zachary, and Bailey are learning to live without their fathers. Ella keeps her head down at school as she mourns, partly to hide her uneven skin tone and partly to avoid connecting with anyone other than Z, her fragile best friend. When Bailey moves into town, Ella doesn�t just find another black kid in an otherwise white town; she gets taken by this outgoing, popular boy who wants to spend time with her, even as he hides his veteran father�s PTSD. Left essentially homeless by his father�s abandonment, Z copes by living in an imaginary world, and when Ella begins spending less time with him and more time with Bailey, he runs away. Ella and Bailey race to find him, and through the experience, Ella begins to understand that what she sees in the mirror is only one aspect of who she is. This novel, by the author of The Rock and the River (2009), is a sensitive, quietly powerful look at discovering inner strength, coping, and thriving�or not�in the face of tragedy. Grades 4-6. --Heather Booth