From the first page I was captivated by Sammie, a sixteen- year-old from a family of hustlers. She is smart, witty, vulnerable and yet brave in many ways. For me, her strength of self was evidenced by her lack of drinking when all around her were experimenting. I was rooting for her to believe in her inner goodness despite the adult influences in her life that threatened to pull her into a similar lifestyle.
This is a gritty read, so I am not ready to share it with my tween reader but it is a book that older teens will relate to as well as adults. I was pleased to be introduced to the work of this award-winning, author and will definitely read some of her other books. Here's a link to her website.
As a reader I often enjoy stories where characters are struggling to find their way despite difficult home situations. One Good Hustle reminded me of how much I enjoyed several books by Maritime author Jill MacLean. Home Truth, was also definitely a more mature young adult read. It is a look inside the harsh life of fourteen-year-old Brick MacAvoy and his little sister Cassie. Brick, a bully is bullied physically and emotionally by his father. I recall reading it and thinking how powerful a book this would be for a young person who was being bullied- and it' s another great read for this author who came to novel writing when she promised to write a story for her grandson.
This is the new cover when the book was reissued for the Red Maple Award 2012. I will be hoping it wins!
My introduction to Jill Mac Lean's writing was when her book, The Nine Lives of Travis Keating was nominated for the 2010 Hacmatac awards (an Atlantic Canadian children's choice award program for which I volunteered at my children's school).
This is the book Mac Lean wrote for her grandson and contains snowmobiles and hockey as he requested- but so much more! Travis, eleven-going-on twelve moves from the city with his widowed father to a small northern community in Newfoundland. The local bully hampers his ability to make friends and he cannot play hockey as the zamboni is not working. Travis finds a family of abandoned cats in Gully Cove, a place he is forbidden to go. This is a great book about learning how to make friends and finding your courage and sense of self.
In the book Travis befriends Prinny, a girl who struggles to read and is dealing with an alcoholic mother. Prinny, although a secondary character was complex and interesting, so I, like many of Mac Lean's readers was thrilled when Prinny got her own book.
A harsher read than her first book, The Present Tense of Prinny Murphy is still hopeful. Mac Lean's characters are very real, her dialogue believable. The curious thing I noticed when reading these books before my daughter, was that the issues I was concerned about being too brutal for her (a young man being punched by his father, a young woman being bullied with alcohol), she took in stride. Just another reminder that they are sometimes ready for more mature content than we give them credit for. And of course there are also times that the worrisome content just flies past them.
Happy reading! I am off to finish my next Wordfest book. Remeber, if you are in Calgary they are looking for volunteer readers.