Eighth-grader Hershey comes home one day to find her mom with a bloodied face. Her mom’s boyfriend, Slade, has struck out before, leaving Hershey with a permanently damaged eye. After feverishly packing for themselves and Baby Ella, Hershey and her mom take refuge in a battered-women’s shelter. Hershey has difficulty adjusting to her new home, but she finds a friend in a reclusive Colombian woman who teaches her how to play the piano in the shelter’s basement. The piano lessons from Lupé become life lessons as Hershey gains self-confidence and applies the bravery required for making beautiful music to her life. The dialogue is sometimes clichéd, and the novel tries to tackle a few too many issues: Hershey’s disordered eating, best-friend troubles, a mean-girl bully, a $1,000-prize talent show, and the painful life experiences of each of the women at the shelter are all part of the story. Still, the novel powerfully portrays the broad impact of domestic violence and includes an ending that’s both realistic and hopeful. Grades 5-8. --Heather Booth
About the Author
Cecilia Galante received a B.A. in English from King's College, and an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College, Vermont. She lives in Kingston, PA with her husband and three children, and is a faculty member of the Graduate Creative Writing Department at Wilkes University.