From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up–Narrated in Kelly Louise's often-breezy, 15-year-old voice, this story is set into motion when a newborn is found dead in a cornfield. Kelly Louise and her mother move to rural Heaven, IA, to support the teen's grandmother and her deeply religious, uncommonly beautiful cousin. Natalie, it turns out, is the mother of Baby Grace, though it is never clear why she chooses to confide in her aunt. The girls have little in common: as Kelly Louise texts her hip friend back in Des Moines, Natalie makes signs for her youth group vigil in memory of the infant. The tone of the story varies from funny (rule-bound Nana is described as “the old S.S. Unpack This Second”) to serious (a baby has died, after all) to descriptions of school events and musings on conservation and ecology. At times the story seems to absolve Natalie because someone took advantage of her and she blocked out the fact that she was pregnant, while at others she seems to be nursing a guilty conscience for breaking her virginity pledge. Equal in focus to the abandoned-baby story line is Kelly Louise's realistically portrayed relationship with a rock-band-wannabe neighbor and her loss of virginity while under the influence of pot. At the end of the novel, she sets into play events that lead to Natalie's arrest, although details are few as to how this affects Natalie or her family. Stranded might have readers where books such as Amy Efaw's After (Viking, 2009) have an audience.Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth, TX
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Kelly Marie's single mother has hurriedly moved the twosome from Des Moines to the small farming town of Heaven, Iowa, where the teen's grandmother lives. The move comes close on the heels of a scandal—someone in Heaven abandoned a newborn baby to die of exposure in a cornfield. No one suspects Kelly Marie's holier-than-thou cousin Natalie, whose own alcoholic mother left her to Nana's care before disappearing. But Natalie is indeed the baby's mother, a secret the family is keeping under tight wraps. Kelly Marie narrates the story in a high-strung, snarky voice, which becomes ever more tightly wound under the secret's pressure. Oddly, Kelly Marie's salvation comes from two unlikely sources: Kenny, a hostile loner who lives with his meth-dealing uncle in the wreck of a house next door, and the sincere, ineffectual school principal. Unfortunately, Natalie and the harsh and judgmental Nana sometimes approach caricature, and the novel's ending feels rushed. But teens drawn to calamitous, topical story lines will find plenty to feed their need here. Grades 8-10. --Karen Cruze