Tag Archives: runaways

Gem & Dixie by Sara Zarr

Gen & Dixie by Sara Zarr. April 4, 2017. Balzer + Bray, 288 p. ISBN: 9780062434593.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Gem has never known what it is to have security. She’s never known an adult she can truly rely on. But the one constant in her life has been Dixie. Gem grew up taking care of her sister when no one else could: not their mother, whose issues make it hard for her to keep food on the table, and definitely not their father, whose intermittent presence is the only thing worse than his frequent absence. Even as Gem and Dixie have grown apart, they’ve always had each other.

When their dad returns home for the first time in years and tries to insert himself back into their lives, Gem finds herself with an unexpected opportunity: three days with Dixie—on their own in Seattle and beyond. But this short trip soon becomes something more, as Gem discovers that that to save herself, she may have to sever the one bond she’s tried so hard to keep.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Drugs; Underage drinking

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (December 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 8))
Grades 9-12. Though she does reasonably well in school and stays out of trouble, Gem doesn’t have it easy. She is constantly on her mother’s case to be a more responsible parent, which puts her at odds with her sister, Dixie, who enables their mother in more ways than one. When their estranged dad shows up, Dixie is enchanted and Gem is wary, but when they discover a backpack full of money he’s left in their room, Gem and Dixie ditch their phones, run away, and spend a few days—and a few thousand dollars—figuring out what to do next. But will the money really provide Gem the independence she so desperately craves? In this illuminating, graceful novel, Zarr demonstrates how privation can reverberate through many areas of a teen’s life, and nicely emphasizes that problems don’t need to be violent or catastrophic in order for one to ask for help (which, thankfully, Gem eventually does). In addition to the powerful portrayal of poverty, Zarr teases out a moving story of sisters navigating their relationship. In Gem’s measured, worried voice, readers will discover a gulf of difference, even resentment, between the sisters, as well as a deep, affectionate solidarity in their unique circumstances. With a vivid, well-rounded cast of characters, including the adults, and a poignant portrayal of family dynamics, Zarr’s frank, resonant story is both bittersweet and triumphant.

Kirkus Reviews starred (February 1, 2017)
Two sisters attempt to sort out their relationship, which is badly strained by years of living with their troubled and neglectful parents. Seventeen-year-old Gem struggles to get enough to eat each day, eventually resorting to bumming spare change off other students at her Seattle high school. Meanwhile, her 14-year-old sister, Dixie, for whom Gem served as protector when they were younger, is able to charm and flirt her way into free sandwiches, cellphones, and more. Despite their drastic outward differences, neither has any sense of safety or well-being in their tenuous living situation with their mom, who, like their absent dad, battles a substance-use disorder. When their dad suddenly returns, their lives are upended yet again, and a situation arises in which both sisters face many hard decisions. Tough, earnest, angry Gem narrates in a matter-of-fact, confessional tone, filling in the heartbreaking back story of her poor, white family in a pair of brief essays she writes at the behest of her school’s kind, supportive psychologist. Gem’s prickly, agonizingly real internal monologues quickly bring readers into her corner, and her messy, layered interactions with Dixie are heart-wrenching. As the unpredictable turns of events progress, Gem’s quietly growing convictions about her own future are hard-won and nuanced. A poignant and smart family drama with broad appeal. (Fiction. 14 & up)

About the Author

Sara Zarr is the acclaimed author of five novels for young adults, most recently The Lucy Variations, and co-author with Tara Altebrando of Roomies. She’s a National Book Award finalist and two-time Utah Book Award winner. Her novels have been variously named to annual best books lists of the American Library Association, Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, the Guardian, the New York Public Library, and the Los Angeles Public Library and have been translated into many languages. She is a MacDowell Colony Fellow and has served as a judge for the National Book Awards. Sara lives in Salt Lake City with her husband.

Her website is www.sarazarr.com.

Around the Web

Gem & Dixie on Amazon

Gem & Dixie on Goodreads

Gem & Dixie on JLG

Gem & Dixie Publisher Page

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Jasper and the Riddle of Riley’s Mine by Caroline Starr Rose

Jasper and the Riddle of Riley’s Mine by Caroline Starr Rose. February 7, 2017. G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 288 p. ISBN: 9780399168116.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.4; Lexile: 750.

Hoping to strike it rich, two brothers escape an abusive father and set out on a treacherous journey to Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush.

Desperate to get away from their drunkard of a father, eleven-year-old Jasper and his older brother Melvin often talk of running away, of heading north to Alaska to chase riches beyond their wildest dreams. The Klondike Gold Rush is calling, and Melvin has finally decided the time to go is now—even if that means leaving Jasper behind. But Jasper has other plans, and follows his brother aboard a steamer as a stowaway.

Onboard the ship, Jasper overhears a rumor about One-Eyed Riley, an old coot who’s long since gone, but is said to have left clues to the location of his stake, which still has plenty of gold left. The first person to unravel the clues and find the mine can stake the claim and become filthy rich. Jasper is quick to catch gold fever and knows he and Melvin can find the mine—all they have to do is survive the rough Alaskan terrain, along with the steep competition from the unscrupulous and dangerous people they encounter along the way.

In an endearing, funny, pitch-perfect middle grade voice, Caroline Starr Rose tells another stellar historical adventure young readers will long remember.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence; Alcohol

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (January 1, 2017)
News that gold’s been discovered in northern Canada has just arrived in 1897 Seattle; learning that his brother, Mel, has joined the stampede of amateur prospectors, Jasper, 11, follows him north.With their mother dead and their father alcoholic and unemployed, Mel, 16, was the family breadwinner. Feeling hurt and abandoned, afraid Mel might send him home, Jasper sneaks onto the ship that will take them to Skagway, Alaska. Jasper’s brought along their father’s gold pocket watch and mother’s washboard; resourceful and determined, he trades his laundry services for a place to sleep and money for food, avoiding capture as a stowaway. The prospectors embarking on this long, dangerous journey to the Klondike as winter approaches are rough, dishonest, and highly credulous (even Jasper questions whether Yukon gold litters the ground or grows on trees). But like them, Jasper’s spellbound by the story of One-Eyed Riley, an unhinged prospector who abandoned his valuable claim but left clues to its whereabouts. Untold riches await the miner who solves the riddles. Jasper narrates in the present tense, his homespun voice evoking both emotion and adventure. Rose milks the setting for all it’s worth. Jasper and Mel are both white. Villains and allies provide colorful melodrama, but it’s the brothers’ struggle to survive the Yukon wilderness with its harsh beauty and unforgiving cold that will keep readers entranced. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

School Library Journal (February 1, 2017)
Gr 4-7-The dreams and dangers of the 1879 Klondike gold rush fuel Rose’s first novel in prose, and it’s a rousing historical adventure. By the end of the first chapter, news of the strikes reaches 11-year-old Jasper and 16-year-old Melvin’s rural Washington town. The brothers quickly forsake their abusive father and set out for the gold fields of Canada. Harsh weather and physical challenges aren’t the only perils along the way. Stampeders are more likely to steal from than help one another, especially two boys traveling alone. Tall tales of gold that grows on trees keep the brothers’ hopes high; Jasper is spurred on by the legend of a million-dollar stake abandoned by miner One-Eyed Riley, who left behind a series of riddles leading to the gold. It’s unlikely that readers will be able to solve the riddles and locate Riley’s claim on the included map, but that won’t deter them. Rose’s carefully plotted clues, along with colorful supporting characters and narrow escapes, keep the pace brisk until Jasper finds Riley’s mine in a suspenseful climax. Complementing a narrative rich in details about life on the frontier, the author’s note provides more intriguing facts, including profiles of characters in the book who were true historical figures. VERDICT Highly recommended for fans of adventure and historical fiction, or as a classroom read-aloud.-Marybeth Kozikowski, Sachem -Public Library, Holbrook, NY

About the Author

Caroline Starr Rose spent her childhood in the deserts of Saudi Arabia and New Mexico, camping at the Red Sea in one and eating red chile in the other. As a girl she danced ballet, raced through books, composed poetry on an ancient typewriter, and put on magic shows in a homemade cape. She’s taught both social studies and English in New Mexico, Florida, Virginia, and Louisiana. In her classroom, she worked to instill in her students a passion for books, an enthusiasm to experiment with words, and a curiosity about the past. She is the author of the critically acclaimed novels in verse May B. and Blue Birds. Caroline lives in New Mexico with her husband and two sons.

Her website is www.carolinestarrrose.com.

Around the Web

Jasper and the Riddle of Riley’s Mine on Amazon

Jasper and the Riddle of Riley’s Mine on Goodreads

Jasper and the Riddle of Riley’s Mine on JLG

Jasper and the Riddle of Riley’s Mine Publisher Page