Author: Danette Vigilante
Publisher: G. P. Putnam's Sons (Penguin)
Released: January 6, 2011
Genre: Middle Grade
Author's Website: http://www.danettevigilante.com/ (Really cute - check it out!)
Dellie is trying to cope with the many effects of her brother's death - her own grief, her parents' grief, her mother's insistence that Dellie will only be safe if she stays indoors at all times, and her own feelings of guilt at her role in her brother's death. Now that her housing project has new tenants, there's more for Dellie to deal with - gunshots at night, screaming, yelling, and fights... Corey, the little boy whose mother is at the center of all this, comes to depend on Dellie for food and companionship. Dellie becomes attached to this little boy who reminds her so much of her own brother, and through Corey, Dellie finds redemption from the demons that haunt her.
The voice of the novel, told in Dellie's words, is completely engaging and so real. It's straightforward, clear, and emotional at all the right points. Dellie's feelings are clearly portrayed, through her own words and through the things she does and the way she reacts to everything. Without Dellie coming straight out and telling the reader, her thoughts and reactions are very clear from the way she talks about what's going on. The way she deals with her grieving mother comes across especially well, as she talks about her mother's daily actions in an understated, matter-of-fact manner.
The themes of grief, blame, guilt, and love are all portrayed exceptionally well, on all levels of the plot. Dellie's interactions with Corey showcase how she feels about her brother, but the subplot of Dellie and Kayla's friendship helps bring these themes into greater relief, as Dellie grapples with the guilt, blame, and love of that relationship.
All the relationships of the story are shown really well. Every single one feels real and believable. I love the relationship between Dellie and Corey, and the one between Dellie and her dad as well. Both of those made me smile many times, and both felt completely natural - all of the relationships in the book do, really, but these two in particular struck me as extremely real.
Though told from a middle-schooler's point of view, there are shades of meaning in each character and their interactions. This book does something that is really tricky - it works well for giving middle-grade readers a real, clear picture of what could go on in real life, in relationships and in someone's own mind, and at the same time it gives enough information that an adult could pick up on and understand certain points that a middle-grade reader would not pick up on. I really like that. This book is definitely meant for middle-grade readers, but their parents can read along with them and enjoy and appreciate the book as well.