1. Kliatt, April 2001

    Chloe has been living quietly with her grandparents ever since they rescued her from her mother’s abuse and neglect. But when her dangerously unbalanced mother snatches Chloe back again—and then tries to make her rob her grandparents’ home—Chloe first blows up their house and then lights out for the territories, in the tradition of Huckleberry Finn. (Chloe even gets her hair cut short and tries to pass herself off as a boy named Finn at one point.)

    Chloe’s companion is her grandparents’ very pregnant Mexican maid, Silvia. The two are aiming to go across the country to California, to meet up with the baby-to-be’s father, and in the course of their journey Chloe encounters the dark underside of American civilization, from life in a boxcar to a trip down the river under the highway, a visit to a housing project, and a night in a park, where street justice is the only kind dispensed and Chloe says, "I knew I was in the wilderness." They end up not far from where they started, at Chloe’s friend Marian’s house. Marian tries to arrange for them to fly to California, but Silvia goes into labor at the airport, and after some drama all is sorted out. Chloe at last returns to her grandparents, with new perspectives on camaraderie, racism, and the underbelly of America’s cities.

    This first novel will work as an adventure story for those unfamiliar with Twain; readers who know The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn might enjoy searching out the parallels and differences. Feisty teenage Chloe is fearless and resourceful but believably naïve in some respects. The sections dealing with Chloe’s experiences in the railroad yard are particularly strong, with a memorably nightmarish feel about them. A novel to ponder and discuss.

    —Paula Rohrlick, KLIATT

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