Hope in the Holler

Hope in the Holler
When Wavie's mother dies of cancer, her life gets complicated very quickly. Since her father has never been in the picture, children's services looks for a relative, and unearths a sister, Samantha Rose, whom her mother has never mentioned. Soon, Wavie is taken away from her supportive trailer park community and is living in squalor in the hills of Kentucky. Her aunt, uncle and cousin Hoyt never clean their run down house, but expect Wavie to.
Things are brightened a little by the children Wavie meets in the neighborhood and school. Most of the children are on free and reduced lunch, and almost everyone gets their backpacks filled up with food for the weekend. Wavie knows enough that if a grandparent is raising children, nothing has gone right with the parents. Her friends Camille and Gilbert are especially supportive of her new situation, and Camille's family is fairly well-to-do for the area.
When Wavie finds out that she was almost adopted by a couple but was returned to her mother, she writes to the Bowmans, posing as her mother, and tries to find out what happened. She is helped a little by a former lawyer, Angel Davis, who has fallen on hard times. When the final hearing to turn her over to the custody of her aunt approaches, Wavie and her friends try to put together evidence in order to find somewhere else for Wavie to live. 
Strengths: Tyre is a very strong writer. Her Last in a Long Line of Rebels was compelling and highly readable, even though there were elements of it that normally would not have appealed to me. She constructs a very vivid world of hardship, but gives Wavie the strength she needs to survive it. The aunt and uncle are bad without being horrible, and the children and teachers at the school are realistic about the living conditions but hopeful that they will improve. At first, I thought the adoptive family story was a bit far fetched, but I wanted to believe that the Bowmans would step in and make Wavie's life better, just the way that Wavie did. 
Weaknesses: The subplot about Angel Davis's life falling apart because he was grieving the death of his wayward son was really unacceptable. Parents don't literally lose their minds and throw their entire lives away when a child dies. This is a horribly recurrent trope in middle grade literature that needs to stop. It's untrue and insulting.
What I really think: I really didn't think, because of a whole slew of elements, that I would like this one. But I did. I think that speaks highly of Tyre's strengths as a story teller. 
224 pages   978-0399546310    Ages  9-13
See more of her recommendations:   msyinglingreads.blogspot.com

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The poignant--and funny--story of a girl trying to be brave and find her place in the world after she's sent to live with scheming relatives.

Right before Wavie's mother died, she gave Wavie a list of instructions to help her find her way in life, including this one: Be brave, Wavie B! You got as much right to a good life as anybody, so find it! But little did Wavie's mom know that events would conspire to bring Wavie back to Conley Hollow, the Appalachian hometown her mother tried to leave behind. Now Wavie's back in the Holler--and in the clutches of her Aunt Samantha Rose. Life with the devilish Samantha Rose and her revolting cousin Hoyt is no picnic, but there's real pleasure in sleeping in her own mother's old bed, and making friends with the funny, easygoing kids her aunt calls the "neighborhood-no-accounts." With their help, Wavie just might be able to prevent her aunt from becoming her legal guardian, and find her courage and place in the world.--from the publisher

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When her mother passes away from cancer, middle-schooler Wavie B. Conley finds herself under the care of Samantha Rose, the cruel aunt she’s never met. She shows up at the burial wearing leopard skin saying she will take care of Wavie now. She wants to take care of Wavie’s government checks.

Samantha Rose and Wavie’s extended family are crude, verbally abusive slobs, living in a run-down filthy house in the Kentucky neighborhood of Conley Holler. This is exactly the opposite of the quiet life Wavie enjoyed with her mother. She longs for her former trailer park home.

Wavie soon realizes Samantha Rose has taken her in for the sole purpose of frivolously spending Wavie’s mother’s social security checks. Wavie knows she can’t live her next 7 years in what the locals call Convict Holler. Kind, sweet Wavie soon makes new friends; the rough-and-tumble Gilbert and the super-student Camille. Miraculously, Wavie uncovers a secret her mother kept from her...one that might rescue her from Samantha Rose’s and her cruel ways.

To me this is a masterpiece of middle grade fiction. Author Lisa Lewis Tyre has captured life in rural America while blending in modern elements, such as cell phones, Wal-Mart, and the Internet. Wavie is upbeat and sincerely optimistic which carries her through the dark mysteries surrounding Conley Holler. Her close friendships with Gilbert and Camille help her survive the nastiness of Samantha Rose. I think as you hold your breath through the court scene, you’ll find book’s conclusion to be both satisfying and hopeful.

This is well-written prose, with colorful characters that linger long after the novel closes. This is a must-purchase for any middle grade library.
JS
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