I loved everything about this middle grade book. The excitement, the characters, the drama was perfect and I was only disappointed when it was over.
A funny and poignant debut middle-grade novel about a foster-care girl who is placed with a family in the witness protection program, and finds that hiding in plain sight is complicated and dangerous.
Nicki Demere is an orphan and a pickpocket. She also happens to be the U.S. Marshals’ best bet to keep a family alive. . . .
The marshals are looking for the perfect girl to join a mother, father, and son on the run from the nation’s most notorious criminals. After all, the bad guys are searching for a family with one kid, not two, and adding a streetwise girl who knows a little something about hiding things may be just what the marshals need.
Nicki swears she can keep the Trevor family safe, but to do so she’ll have to dodge hitmen, cyberbullies, and the specter of standardized testing, all while maintaining her marshal-mandated B-minus average. As she barely balances the responsibilities of her new identity, Nicki learns that the biggest threats to her family’s security might not lurk on the road from New York to North Carolina, but rather in her own past. from Goodreads.
Every middle grade book requires the reader to suspend a bit of reality. Typically, that suspension comes in the form of believing that a 10-14 year old is being asked to perform an adult job because of a lack of supervision. Or, the kids are having an adventure simply because no one is watching them. I love to keep track of the different ways authors separate kids from parents and offer, again, my Where are the Parent’s Bingo? for your enjoyment.
In the beginning, author Jake Burt appears to take a standard path to this essential first step in every middle grade book: he gets rid of the parents by making the main character, Nicki, a ward of the state. At 13, her mom is long gone, her Dad in prison, and her beloved Granny dead. But, when she is recruited by the U.S. Marshall’s to become a part of Project Family, she is taken in by people who needs her help to successfully hide her in WITSEC. With two kids instead of one, the theory is that it will make it much harder for those the government is prosecuting to find the family and give Nicki a home. Two birds, one stone!
At first, honestly, I had to work hard overcome my disbelief that any foster placement into this type of care would be possible. But, when reading middle grade, I think it is best to just go with the flow*. When I did so I found myself carried away by this story. I just loved Nicki / Charlotte who loves books and relies on her prior experiences to slide successfully into her new family, town, and school. Nicki is strong and smart but, most importantly, she is kind. Quickly after moving into her new town she befriends a shy neighbor girl, Brittany, and she is a stalwart friend. I will never get enough of this kind of magical character.
*I do think that going with the flow has limits and, certainly I was bothered by the ancient technological and social media used by the kids. This book was published in 2017 which is far too late for a teenager to have a blog or post on Facebook. This wasn’t enough to ruin the story for me but it could have been tweaked to make the characters more realistic.
But then the author did something that is so rare in a middle grade book that I found myself actually angry at how well he pulled it off. He reintroduced adults into Nicki’s life! And as the danger closed in all around this family Nicki went from protecting them to being guarded by them. Truthfully, I closed the book a little jealous at how cleverly Burt managed this trick. A middle grade book with parents who are present and take care of the kids, I didn’t think it was possible!
This book had it all, adventure, fantastic character development, mystery, and intrigue. My only regret is leaving it to languish on my shelf for so long!
I read this book to finish the prompt A Book in a Dangerous Setting and it earned me the dagger clue!
Tell me, please! Have you read a great middle grade book with parents who are present?