Synopsis from Goodreads
The hollow as the perfect place to hide. Or so Free’s dad thought. His plan: flee California with Free’s five-year-old brother illegally in tow, hide out in the mountains of West Virginia, make fast cash during ginseng season, then escape to a nicer place where the law can’t find them. Free isn’t thrilled about living in a holler alongside drug dealers and thieves, but she’s willing to do whatever it takes to keep her family safe. Unfortunately, with their father disappearing into the woods with increasing frequency, Free and her brother exist largely alone. Until their neighbor Cole appears with lots of questions. Cole’s spent his entire life in the holler—and his entire life working out a way to leave his druggie mother and incarcerated brother. As the editor of the school newspaper, he’s an expert at getting to the bottom of a story, and he’s determined to crack Free—who seems un-crack-able. When the family she was desperate to protect is ripped apart, Free turns to Cole for help, the only person willing. But while her plan escalates, Free can’t deny the pull she feels toward the boy with too many questions—and who holds just as many secrets. As they become closer, she finds that Cole might need her help as much as she needs his.
I can’t seem to write this review. I’ve tried a couple of times now and I find myself trying to retell the story and all the great, awesome parts of this book instead of telling you what I love about it. You have to read this book for yourself. It was beautiful.
Since I can’t stop myself from telling you the story, instead I am going to just write up some bullet points about what I loved about this book and some things this book made me think about.
- This isn’t a book you just read. This is a book you experience. At least it was that way for me. This book hit on some really tough topics – child abuse, drug abuse, extreme poverty, neglect, teen pregnancy, prejudice. But it was also a story about family, hope, discovery, and love. In the end, it really emphasized that sometimes the best action is to let go, rather than continue on a dead end and ultimately destructive path.
- Everyone in the world should be loved the way Freedom and Little love each other. There was raw emotion there, definitely borne of hard life experiences, but a love deeper between siblings than I’ve ever experienced before in a book. It was pure, unconditional, and beautiful.
- Everyone in the world should be respected and loved the way Cole respects and loves Freedom. Good guys do exist.
- Poverty does not have to define you. You define you. Sometimes your decisions (good and bad) can define you (at least temporarily), and the right decisions are super hard to make! But you are never locked in – while it can be difficult, you can change your life if you want to!
- Not all foster families are bad.
- Guidance counselors can ROCK!
- Girls can be unbelievably smart! I love that Freedom was a math prodigy and that it was so prominent in the book.
- Saying goodbye can be the hardest thing in the world. There is a scene between Freedom and Little that made me ugly cry. It was painful, raw, heart wrenching and destroyed me for a bit. I actually had to put the book down for a while to recover.
- SO MANY EMOTIONS! This book was a rollercoaster spanning from hate, dread, and despair to outright joy, hope and love. Quite a ride.
- Sometimes survival means taking care of yourself first. Love yourself.
- I loved that this is a YA book that did not go the catty high school girls route. Refreshing!
- You are allowed to be happy!
- Did I mention MATH!?!! 🙂
- Family is everything. And sometimes the ones that are your best family aren’t even related to you.
- You are stronger than you think, but you can ask for help when you need it. And when you need to, scream at the top of your lungs from a cliff!
There is so much in this book to love. I want to tell you about all of my favorite parts and provide quotes and describe the scenes, but I would be rewriting the book for you if I included it all. I seriously want to buy this book for everyone I know and hold them hostage until they read it and experience what I just experienced reading it!
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher Owl Hollow Press for a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Published November 6, 2018.
My rating – 5 out of 5
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