December 04, 2006

Stuck in a Revolving Door

This book is a 2006 Cybil Award Nominee for YA Fiction.

Her file is thick and fat with her placements. She's been returned nine times between the ages of eleven and thirteen. Nine different foster homes. Nine different families. Nine different schools. Veronica Hartman has been abandoned, and she's pissed. Ronnie has a very realistic young adult voice and a very human and flawed character. She is a cynic, a disbeliever in the goodness of people, and pretty much out for what she can get. After all, nobody's looking out for her, are they?

Truthfully, Ronnie is scared. She knows when and where she's not wanted. She remembers the day and night she spent in an empty house, after her mother and boyfriend took her brothers and left for Alaska. She remembers living with her aunt and uncle, and how her aunt said she could come back when Jesus fixed her. She knows she's not worth much to anybody. She's just a Returnable Girl.

So, Ronnie figures out that she alone needs to have her back. To keep herself safe (or so she tells herself) she lies and steals, and pisses people off. She drags her belongings around in a black plastic bag. She doesn't want your nice luggage, thank you. When her mother finally comes to get her, then she'll want luggage. Luggage is what you have when you have a home to go to.

Alison Hauser is the last foster mother Ronnie's had, and Alison's the end of the road. If Ronnie doesn't pull herself together, she could face living in a group home, and she knows it. Ronnie likes Alison's straight talk, and makes an effort to do better. She finds a friend in Cat, a pale and chunky misfit at school who has a homelife as dire and strange as Ronnie's used to be. Ronnie is thrilled when Alison even lets her get a dog. She has two precious things: a comfortable placement and a pet. Suddenly Alison's house is starting to seem like ... home.

But the fledgling feelings of security Ronnie has aren't enough. She wants more -- she wants to be accepted by her peers. At school, there's a group of really popular girls who seem interested in being friends, but Ronnie has to do some hurtful things to Cat, the one girl who used to be her friend. Is it worth all the lying just to be accepted? Is betrayal all Ronnie knows? And what happens when Ronnie's mother happens back on-scene?

Ronnie's journey from cynicism to faith in the people around her will keep readers invested in her life. As Ronnie and the adults involved with her make mistakes, the reality is that they are all trying to do what is best to love her, and that makes all the difference.

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