“My life was going, going, gone, and I hadn’t been laid yet. I couldn’t go into the slammer before that happened.” Hutch McQueen.Sixteen-year-old Hutchinson McQueen is trapped in a dysfunctional family. Shackled by poor vision and poor reading skills, he squeaks through classes with his talent for eavesdropping and memorizing what he hears. After another
suspension from school and suffering through one of his mother’s violent attacks, he escapes to a friend’s house that turns out to be a meth lab. The lab is raided and Hutch lands in juvenile detention. When the court sentences him to six months in a new juvenile program, he meets a teacher with Alzheimer’s who will change his life and hers.
I found this book really touched me since I use to work with kids such as Hutch. Those that don’t come from supportive and nurturing homes have never been taught social skills nor had their confidence built. Just like Hutch, they come from families where the father is absent and the mother is abusive. The only thing they learn at home is
Hutch was a high school student who faces this kind of home life every day and then goes to high school and struggles with his school work. You see he also has issues with his sight and inability to read. His choices that he makes are usually bad one, landing him in court sessions and risking more than he can afford to lose. At one point his future really only appears to be death or prison but then three angels come to his aid.
Father Kerry who used to be a hell raiser in his own youth, is now a reformed man and active priest. He sees what Hutch could become if he would allow someone to guide him and love him. Maggie used to teach school but now deals with her own Alzheimer’s. She wants to teach him to read, to better himself and show him that there is more to him than what he has been told. Then we have Nyla, a girl who is terribly bullied in school. She can help him learn and make good choices if he will protect her from the harm the bullies dish out to her.
This is his second chance, but really with the life this kid has been handed, it is more like his first chance. The author writes Hutch’s character in a way that you really feel you are dealing with a teenager, an angry, ignorant, hopeless teenager. It is heartbreaking to see where he is heading especially after realizing he does have people to help. I have to state though, I could never hate him for not trusting these three right away. He comes from an environment that is anything but trustworthy. He is vulnerable to danger due to his eye sight. His knowledge of the world comes from the trials of surviving since his reading is limited. How can we fault him for his mistakes when life set him up to fail?
This was a powerful read; one that I really felt connected to and had emotions flowing. I commend the author for bringing such topics to life as she did in this book. Make sure you pay close attention to the scenes discussing the “hushes”, so endearing. The ending was beautiful, yet sad for me. You have to read it to understand but the evolution that the author takes Hutch and each of the characters on is brilliant. They all change and grow in the process of this book. This is one I would recommend to readers but be prepared to feel emotions that will be all over the place and I hope it sparks some desire to reach out to kids like Hutch. Every community has them, each need a Father Kerry, Maggie and Nyla in their corner.
In my other life–the one before I began writing for teens and younger readers–I was a teacher and administrator at California State University, San Jose. My field of Linguistics and Inter-cultural Communication has carried me to a lot of places in the world to explore different cultures and languages. I can say, “Where’s the toilet?” and “I’m lost!” in at least five languages and two dialects. Go ahead. Pat me on the back.
My idea of a perfect day is one or all of the following: starting a new novel, finishing writing a blockbuster novel, hiking on a misty morning trail in the Santa Cruz Mountains, saying Namaste after a great yoga practice, sipping a cappuccino topped at a bustling café, reading in front of a fire with snow outside, swimming in an ocean someplace.
I’ve just set out my perfect life. Day after day after day.
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