cover image Now You Say Yes

Now You Say Yes

Bill Harley. Peachtree, $17.99 (384p) ISBN 978-1-68263-247-5

Following the sudden death of her adoptive mother, former foster child Mari, 15, hatches a plan to drive across the country with her nine-year-old brother Conor, who is on the autism spectrum. Determined not to reenter “the System” or be separated from Conor, she picks up their mother’s car and the family’s camping equipment, planning to drive from Los Angeles to their estranged grandmother’s home in Massachusetts—though she’s unsure whether Nana will forgive her for a long-ago transgression, the details of which slowly unfold. To get Conor, who is interested in astronomy, onboard with the trip, she promises him that they can stop to view a solar eclipse. Along the way, the cued-white kids encounter external obstacles—from dwindling cash to misplaced car keys—and sweet moments (“Conor splashing in the water, singing to the Gulls and the B-52’s”). As Mari battles feelings of alienation and attempts to make adult decisions, Conor memorizes the map and curls up in a dog crate (“a small safe place”) for comfort. Though Mari doesn’t always speak sensitively about her brother’s disorder, this poetically written and economically plotted hero’s journey by Harley (the Charlie Bumpers series) makes a heartwarming, hopeful case for self-forgiveness and second chances. Ages 10–14. [em](Aug.) [/em]