1. VOYA, April 2001

    Teenaged Chloe enjoys a fairly comfortable life with her wealthy grandparents until they dismiss their maid Silvia because she is pregnant. When Chloe is kidnapped by her estranged, despicable mother, she fakes her own death to escape, and she and Silvia become fugitives together. Silvia’s condition and lack of citizenship papers complicate their misadventures. They plan to drive to California to find Roberto, the father of Silvia’s baby, but end up circling the city all night. When they lose "their" car and must flee on foot, Chloe gets a short haircut and becomes "Finn."

    After an unpleasant encounter with an unsavory character, the pair are befriended by a street kid and experience the seamy side of city life. Eventually, Marian, Chloe’s eccentric classmate, offers financial assistance just when Silvia begins to deliver the long overdue baby. When Roberto shows up and reveals that he and Silvia are married, the grandparents pledge to try harder to be a family for Chloe as her mother flees to Mexico.

    The plot has some weak points, but telling the story from Chloe’s perspective makes the improbable seem plausible. Vivid descriptions and realistic details involve the reader. Chloe and Silvia are counterparts of Twain’s Huck and Jim, and their adventures echo those of their fictional predecessors. Young readers will admire Chloe, who overcomes adversity and is clever, perceptive, and vulnerable. Her story is funny, pathetic, and engrossing. Will an international border deter Chloe’s mother, who is "capable of anything"? A sequel seems likely.

    —Sherry York