3 stars (I liked it).
This is a book that immerses the reader in the reality of extreme poverty and the terrible choices it forces people to make. At the same time, the main character doesn’t wallow–she’s just a preteen living her life and doing her best. She’s also an amazing big sister.
This is an important book, but it felt a little bit slow to me, especially for middle grade. I can imagine kids reading this a) if they’re in the same situation as Zoey or b) if they’re doing it with the help of a teacher or parent talking them through things.
It’s pretty subtle at times, like Zoey being grateful to live with her mom’s current boyfriend because he has a “nice,” “clean” trailer to live in, even if he’s verbally abusive and the rest of the situation isn’t great either. I can’t imagine a nine-year-old reader assuming anything other than taking the main character at her word that the trailer is a good home.
That said, the Goodreads reviews are overwhelmingly positive. This book is not a dud, but it might take a bit of guidance if you’re handing it to your kids. This is more for adults who like to read middle grade, in other words, or for teachers who want to teach about certain issues in their classrooms.