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"One for the Murphys" by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

I have a little wish: I would like novelists writing for children to stop making the kids sound older than they are.

I read One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt last night and really like it. As I tweeted when I finished it, the book has a tough ending. It makes perfect sense and it's not a totally sad ending, but it's a bit heart-breaking to those of us who want a super-happy-ending, especially for this book's particular protagonist. It made me cry.

Carley Connors is foster child -- her mom is recovering from severe abuse delivered by her husband (Carley's step-dad). She's never been in foster care before, but she has known hardship as she and her mother lived on next to nothing in Las Vegas. Now in Connecticut, Carley is taken in by a loving woman who has a husband and three sons. The Murphys aren't perfect by any means and not all of them want Carley in their family, but by the end of the book, something better than a mere co-existence has formed. The ending is a heart-breaker because of the tough decision Carley must make.

Carley is a reliable narrator. And, for the most part, her voice rings true. Except when she sounds like a 16-year-old, rather than a 12-year-old. And that bothers me. I checked the book jacket over and over again while I was reading to see if she was really supposed to be just 12. It could be argued that she's wiser than her years because of her scrappy life in Las Vegas, but that doesn't account for the older than 12 dialogue between her and her classmates.

Two 13-year-old girls were hanging out in my library yesterday and I learned more about some boy band named One Direction than I ever cared to know. Of course, Carley didn't have the kind of life that could be spend obsessing over cute boys from England who can lip sync and dance, but still I wish she and her friends weren't so wise beyond their years.

One other thing, the events of the book take place roughly from February to May. Mr. Murphy is an avid Red Sox fan and that's fine. But at the same time, his eldest son Daniel is playing basketball at school. I suppose some school can have a spring basketball program, but in most schools basketball is a winter sport. I know that Daniel's basketball arc (no pun intended) is important to the story, but  it seems a trifle sloppy to me for the editor to miss that.

Still in all, I definitely recommend this book for tweens. I'm even going to add it to my Newbery shortlist.


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