Set-up: Everything Maya holds dear – her house, her belongings, her designer clothes, and her con-artist dad – are taken away when her dad’s crimes finally catch up with him. Maya is sent to Kids Place, an institution where children and teens wait for foster parents to take them in.
Main character’s goals: This is pretty straightforward. Find long-lost aunt. While this is a great goal in and of itself, the stakes are raised when a creep-nasty couple of foster parents plan to take Maya in. The couple is outwardly religious, but the man seems to only worship one thing: teenage girls. If that isn’t shudder-inducing enough, add the complex power struggles among the other children and teens in Kids Place.
My reaction: You know I hate stories that make me cry, and this one did. Grr. But it also had a very satisfying ending, and not in a sunshiny, “girl gets boy and lives happily ever after” sort of way. I mean, I love Disney fairy tale endings, I really do. But this felt real, and plausible, and even better.
Of interest to writers: Maya’s got a scientific and, actually, a very paranoid way of looking at the world. For every decision she makes, she creates a scientific-procedure to go with it. Here’s an example:
Purpose: Find Aunt Sarah.
Hypothesis: If I can find Aunt Sarah, I can avoid being sent to the Holy Rollers’ house.
Materials: Mom’s box, a backpack…
1) Get a Citifare Bus schedule… (p. 89)
These scientific procedures serve to underline Maya’s voice. They also reinforce her character as a scientific, logical smartypants. And – even better – they clue the reader in to her ever-plummeting situation (as if the various crises in the story are not enough…trust me, they are).
Bottom line: This is a well-crafted novel, with believable characters who will win you over and quite possibly break your heart.