Thursday, December 20, 2012

One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

I couldn't put this novel down with the likable characters and nice pacing. I can't say I loved the ending and I found lots unbelievable but the kind parents, funny young boys, quirky best friend, and nice protagonist make for an enjoyable read.

Carley's world has been turned upside down when her step-dad beats her and her mom so badly they ended up in the hospital. Carly's mom's injuries are so severe that Carley is placed into the foster care of the Murphy's, an outwardly perfect family that is so kind and loving she isn't sure she wants to go back to her mom.

The strength of this story is the character development and emotional pull of Carley becoming attached to the family. Carley is angry at first and lashes out at the Murphy's but learns to love them and be responsible for helping care for the boys. In the beginning Carley has some rough edges and fights with wanting to trust her new family. By the end, Julie Murphy is giving her responsibilities that made me think Carley was more like eighteen years old versus 8th grade. Carley also reacts like an older character. But no matter.

I wanted more of the plot fleshed out. The best friend relationship seemed to happen too fast as well as the reconciliation with her real mother. I did enjoy the best friend and Carley's discussions about the character in the Broadway musical and novel, "Wicked," as they try to make sense out of themselves and the world around them. Carley's voice sometimes sounds too old and her mom didn't sound low income enough when they are apologizing to each other, but it isn't very noticeable. I loved Michael Eric! The author nails this adorable little guy. He's like a puppy. Daniel was believable with his anger toward having to share his family with a foster child. I didn't buy Carley teaching Daniel basketball because even a mediocre male player the same age as a female player is going to have a physical advantage. Unless Carley is an extremely tall, athletic girl, which she isn't.

I was puzzled by the ending that made it seem that the family couldn't contact Carley and that only she could contact them. I wanted to know if this is a law or was just a part of the story. I needed more information. This story misses the grittiness of low income families and doesn't catch the despair or anger like one might find in a Gary Schmidt novel, and because of this, it is a nice book for young readers. The beating is not gone into detail and the horror of it is mostly what the reader imagines in his or her own mind. A wonderful debut novel.

Reading level 3.5
3 out of 5 Smileys

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