Author: Virginia Castleman
Published by: Aladdin (2016)
My Rating: ★★★★☆
Summary from Goodreads:
Sisters Anna and Sara must rely on each other for strength as they face being separated by the foster care system in this heartwrenching tale of sisterhood, family, and survival.
Sara and Anna Olsen face an uncertain world. Their mother left home and may—or may not—be coming back. Their father is a drummer in a band and comes home long after the girls go to sleep—if he comes home at all. Too often, ten-year-old Sara and twelve-year-old Anna are left to fend for themselves. Then one night, three loud knocks at the door change everything: their father is in jail and social services has come to take the girls away. Rather than risk being split up, Sara and Anna decide their only option is to run away.
But the girls don’t get very far, and when the authorities catch up with them, Sara and Anna are forced back into the foster care system. Along the way, the girls encounter good people who want to help them but they also meet people who have no patience for mistakes or accidents. As Anna begins to act out or withdraw completely, Sara knows that it’s up to her to take care of her older sister. But what if she can’t anymore? What if she finds a forever home that may not include Anna? Will Sara keep the promise she made to her mother to stay with her sister or will she find the courage to do what’s best for herself?
Inspired by true events, this heartrending and hopeful novel of survival, friendship, and sisterhood, tells the tale of two sisters who must find the strength to face anything that life may throw their way.
I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book!
I haven’t read a lot of foster-kid books, so this is the first one in this genre I’ve read in a while. It was sweet and touching and I found myself eagerly awaiting when I could get back to reading it. The characters drew me in, and I couldn’t wait to see what they did next.
The story focuses on ten-year-old Sara and her sister Anna. Sara and Anna haven’t had the best experiences growing up—their parents constantly had problems, and eventually their mom disappeared. It was okay for a little while with their dad, but then he disappeared, too, and turns out it’s because he’s been sent to prison. So the girls are shuffled into foster care—first to stay with Ben and Rachel, some of their favorite people, and then to two different homes, both which are decent in their own way. Along the way, Sara begins to discover things about herself and her sister.
I thought the author captured Sara’s feelings of being lost and alone so well; the tone of the story sounded perfectly like a ten-year-old. This backfired a bit, for the writing was only decent—ten year olds can only think so advanced—but it was true to real life, which I thought was done well. Sara sounded like a very realistic ten-year-old with ten-year-old struggles outside even the foster home situation.
To be honest, I was a little disappointed in the ending from the standpoint that I cheered Sara on when she fought for her sister, and I wanted to see them reunited, together, adopted. The message I felt was sent was more what was best for Anna, even if it meant she was “locked up,” somewhere and apart from Sara, and I get that aspect of what’s best for Anna and not holding her back—but I don’t necessarily think that message was necessarily exactly accurate or true to real life, and definitely not the ending or message any of the readers were rooting for.
On the other hand, I did like the ending because it did tie together well and served a good, positive ending and growth for Sara, and considering the book is focused around Sara, it was done well. I was simply disappointed in the Anna subplot, which was built up to be more than a subplot, and then disappeared back into subplot before being really brought together. I did love Sara’s growth as a character, though.
So overall, I really did enjoy this book, I just thought the whole foster-care system thing was painted a little too happily. For a book about foster care that turned out good, this book did amazing. It just didn’t seem to match up with what I thought it was going to deal with. Then again, you can only write so deep when you’re writing to kids.