Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Published by Dial Books (Released August 11)

Summary:  Della and her older sister Suki have just been placed in foster care with Francine.  It’s pretty clear from page 1 that some horrible things have happened to them.  Early on, Della tells how her mother got sent to jail several years before for setting fire to a hotel room while cooking meth with both girls in the hotel with her.  But, Della continues, that’s not the hard part of the story.  It’s not until many pages later that the reader learns how Clifton, the mother’s boyfriend that the girls ended up living with, tried to molest Della.  How Suki caught him and took a picture.  And how, slowly, Della realizes with horror what has been happening to Suki for years.  The unremittingly grim trajectory of their lives, though, begins to change.  Francine turns out to be an unlikely, no-nonsense heroine.  A girl named Nevaeh reaches out to Della and becomes a friend.  And when Suki finally finds her pain unbearable, doctors and therapists are available to help her.  Della decides the wolf is her favorite animal, and as the days with Francine go by, she learns to be strong like the wolf, but also to lean on the strengths of the rest of her pack.  272 pages; grades 5-8.

Pros:  This book is tough to read, but I couldn’t put it down and read it in less than a day.  You’ll recognize some of the elements that made The War That Saved My Life so memorable.  The flawed, but unforgettable young narrator.  The unlikely guardian who ends up creating a family.  The traumatized sibling.  The unlikely humor.  Kimberly Brubaker Bradley has created another masterpiece, as well as shining light on an issue that often stays in the shadows, especially for the intended audience.  A Newbery contender for sure.

Cons:  Fans of The War That Saved My Life will undoubtedly be clamoring for Bradley’s latest book., but the subject matter may raise a few parental eyebrows., so be ready for some potentially difficult questions.  On a lighter note, if you have parents who object to language, Suki tells Della to use the words snow, snowman, or snowflake instead of curse words.  That’s how the words appear on the printed page, but it’s usually pretty easy to guess what she’s really saying by how other characters react.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.


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