Every Shiny Thing
Told from two different perspectives (Sierra's in verse and Lauren's in prose), this is a book about Sierra, who, readers gradually discover, is in foster care because her Mom struggles with alcoholism. It's also a book about Lauren, who is missing her brother while he's away at school. Sierra goes to live next door to Lauren, with a family that has dealt with their own personal challenges, while Lauren is tired of her best friend and her parents, who act like expensive new clothes and technology will make up for the fact that her brother, who has autism, is at a school far away. They become friends, but when Lauren starts stealing things and asks Sierra to hide them for her, they both have to hope no one will find out.
There's a lot to unpack for a relatively short book - Lauren feels protective of her brother and thinks he will be unhappy at his school without her to look after all the details that she manages for him at home, and Sierra has to deal with missing her friends and her mom and adjusting to a new school and new rules at home. Both girls make mistakes - and so do some of the adults, so the realism is good. Lauren's choices get so terrible, though, that it's difficult to cheer for her as the story progresses. Although lots of protagonists say and do terrible things, the stealing from friends and innocents is pretty painful to witness. Lauren is also incredibly righteous about excessive spending and dismissive of the affluence she enjoys, and while that's part of her character's arc, it's not easy to feel a lot of sympathy for her. Sierra is more sympathetic; although she is understandably reluctant to open up to her foster family (who might be a little too perfectly patient and at the ready with plant analogies), she does start to show her personality. The book covers some topics that will interest middle grade readers, and it offers some discussion opportunities for book clubs and class groups.
" As Mom's shiny, highlighted hair bounced against her shoulders and her designer purse swung back and forth, I felt that about-to-throw-up tightness in my throat . . . he can't be right that we shouldn't help one person just because we can't help every person."
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