From School Library Journal
Grade 8 Up-Darrow began this tale of poverty in rural Arkansas in The Painters of Lexieville
(Candlewick, 2003). Abandoned by their mother, Sissy Lexie, 16, and her younger brother, Boy, are looking for a lot more beauty than they are finding. They lived with their older sister, Raynell, until her husband lost his job; endured several foster homes; and are currently residing with the Fowlers, who force the teens to collect trash for their business. Although unhappy, the siblings find comfort in being together. When Boy gives Sissy a specially designed tattoo, their enraged foster parents beat them and they run away to St. Louis to find Raynell, who can now care for them. Settled into high school, they become art bandits, roaming rooftops at night to spray their self-chosen tags-Skye and Atenz. When tragedy strikes, Sissy spirals downward into depression and self-destruction. Finally reconnecting with her belief in the importance of art in day-to-day life, she revives an old dream of attending art school and begins to face her grief. Sissy's poignant first-person narrative blends staccato verses with free-flowing prose. Readers will appreciate the characters' search for identity and efforts to find beauty in places not obvious. Suggest this title to readers who enjoyed Kathe Koja's The Blue Mirror
(Farrar) or Martine Leavitt's Heck Superhero
(Front St, both 2004), novels that also depict hope through art and self-expression on gritty urban streets.Kelly Czarnecki, Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg, NC
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Opening in Vernal, Arkansas, this novel-in-verse speaks through 16-year-old Sissy Lexie, who, along with her younger brother, Boy, has been abandoned by their mother. The author reintroduces siblings who first made minor appearances in The Painters of Lexieville
(2003). In this story, they want nothing more than to live with their older sister, Raynell, and her husband; instead, they are placed with an assortment of strangers, including religiously pious garbage collectors. When the garbage collectors take one too many swings at Boy, he and Lexie go on the lam. Upon finding their sister, they gain a stable and happy home, only to have it destroyed when one sibling dies and the other is thrown into a paralyzing grief. The story, which covers psychological, emotional, and physical territory, could have used more narrative muscle. However, the spare, rhythmic text is rich in imagery and intriguing in tone. Readers, especially fans of verse, will be attracted. Holly KoellingCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved