The Free

Lauren McLaughlin. Soho Teen, $18.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-61695-731-5
Trying to make 30 days in juvie go by as quickly as possible, 16-year-old Isaac West learns surprising things about himself in this emotionally charged novel from McLaughlin (Wishing Day). A slick thief whose racially mixed background only adds to his sense of being an outsider, Isaac started stealing to provide for his younger sister, Janelle, since their mother is more concerned with drinking and other unsavory pursuits. He moved on to boosting cars and ended up in the Haverland Juvenile Detention outside Boston after taking the fall for a job that turned violent. The center is akin to a small war zone, with rival gangs rumbling in the cafeteria, but group therapy sessions become a place for Isaac to both listen and unlock a part of himself as the members write out their “crime stories” for the others to perform—it’s the most macabre theater class ever. McLaughlin never shies from her characters’ difficult backstories or the crimes they committed, giving teenagers that society often thinks of as broken a chance to speak, in their own voices. Ages 14–up. Agent: Jill Grinberg, Jill Grinberg Literary Management. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/12/2016
Release date: 02/28/2017
Genre: Children's
Paperback - 978-1-61695-874-9
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