Monday, July 6, 2020

FIGHTING WORDS by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley.  New York: Dial Books, 2020. ISBN 978-1984815682 hc. $17.99    Gr. 5-8     JUV

Della is just ten, but she’s experienced more than any child should in a lifetime.  She and her teenage sister, Suki, have been living with her mom’s boyfriend, Clifton, ever since her mom was sent to prison for cooking meth.  Their living situation went from bad to worse when a drunk Clifton tried to abuse Della before Suki got home and used her phone to document the situation.  Then they ran!  That’s where this story begins.  Della is back in school, where she’s always in trouble because she has a limited vocabulary of curse words, but those are the ones she likes to use.  Suki is still trying to protect Della from harm and the foster care system, but she’s also trying to hold down a job and go to school.  The sisters don’t trust anyone, especially Francine, their by-the-book foster parent, who will turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to them.  As Della makes progress navigating the classroom and school routines, Suki is beginning to crumble emotionally and attempts suicide.  Della begins to realize what kind of sacrifices Suki made to keep her safe from Clifton.  Will they be able to trust Francine enough to get the help they both need to recover from unspeakable trauma?  Although the author tackles the issues of sexual abuse and suicide, the story ends in a place of hope and is appropriate for middle school readers.
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI

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