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.