cover image Runaway


Wendelin Van Draanen, . . Knopf, $15.95 (250pp) ISBN 978-0-375-83522-3

Through her journal entries, 12-year-old Holly Janquell reveals her experiences living in foster homes since her mother died of a drug overdose two years ago. Holly has already thwarted the sexual advances of one foster father and now, living with the Evans, things aren't any better. Mr. and Mrs. Evans accuse her of lying, stealing and drug use, then, as punishment, lock Holly in the laundry room for days. It's her teacher, Ms. Leone, who gives Holly the journal ("It'll help you turn the page"). After a terrible scene with Mr. Evans, Holly runs away, eventually making her way to California. Constantly moving from place to place, Holly is caught off guard when Sammie, from the soup kitchen, offers help. Sammie introduces Holly to two women (mother and daughter) who eventually become the family Holly has been longing for. Holly's diary entries, which include poetry, unspool as ongoing conversations with Ms. Leone. Van Draanen's (the Sammy Keyes series) portrayal of Holly's situation is gravely realistic, though some of Holly's entries seem too perfectly written for a poorly educated 12-year-old. Still, readers will be drawn to Holly as she shifts between her search for a safe place to live, her anger at the foster care system and her reflections on the circumstances that led up to her mother's overdose. Ages 10-up. (Sept.)