Friday, May 16, 2008

Returnable Girl - booktalk

Returnable Girl
by Pamela Lowell

When I think back on the times my parents left us alone for a few hours, I don’t remember ever being scared. We never had a doubt that they were coming back soon. Ronnie isn’t so lucky. The first time remembers her mother leaving her, she was five years old. When I was five, my older brothers watched over me. At five, Ronnie was left in charge of her little brother. Whew.

Flash forward eight or so years, and Ronnie isn’t taking care of her little brothers anymore, because her brothers and her mother are all the way across the country, in Alaska. When they packed up and left, there was “no room” for Ronnie, so she was left behind. Ronnie knows that her mother is an alcoholic drug abuser, but she doesn’t care. She desperately wants to be with her mother and brothers. Instead, she’s been shunted from foster home to foster home. Alison is her tenth placement, eleventh if you count the time she stayed with her uncle and aunt. She’s been returned from all those placements, because nobody will put up with a girl as angry as she is. But maybe Alison will be different. Alison has strict rules: no throwing things, no lying, no stealing. But Alison has something else for Ronnie, too: love and understanding. No matter how much trouble Ronnie gets into, Alison is there for her.

Just as Ronnie begins to feel okay about her life, another problem pops up. Cat’s her best friend. Her only friend, really. Cat’s plump, always a little dirty, and definitely a little odd. It’s clear from things she says that she knows a little about messed up families, too. Cat gets Ronnie, and Ronnie gets her. But Ronnie desperately wants to be a part of the in crowd, and Cat is holding her back. When Paige, the most popular girl in eighth grade, starts letting Ronnie hang out with her, Ronnie knows she can’t afford to keep Cat as a friend.

Having to choose between being popular or being a good friend is hard. But that’s not the hardest decision she has to make. Alison wants to adopt her. Alison is rock solid. She doesn’t make promises she can’t keep, and Ronnie knows that Alison would never walk out on her. Alison makes her feel safe. She can’t say the same thing about her mother. She says she won’t drink or do drugs, and then does. She constantly makes excuses for why Ronnie can’t join them. But she’s Ronnie’s mother, and Ronnie loves her and needs her. And now, finally, Ronnie’s mother wants her, too. She says it’s time for Ronnie to come home. They’ll work things out. Should Ronnie let Alison adopt her, or is it time to believe in her mother at last?

My original post on this book can be found here.

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