Author: Ogle, Rex
In his follow-up to Free Lunch, the author tells the true story of his high school career defined by poverty and punctuated by outbreaks of domestic abuse as he describes his struggle to survive, reflects on his complex, often paradoxical relationship with his passionate, fierce mother; and charts the trajectory of his stepdad's anger.
Kirkus Reviews (09/01/21)
School Library Journal (+) (00/11/21)
Booklist (+) (09/15/21)
Full Text Reviews:
Booklist - 09/15/2021 *Starred Review* In this continuation of Ogle's memoir, begun in the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award–winning Free Lunch (2019), Rex is entering high school and parts of his life have improved. His family can now afford food since both parents are working, but physical and mental abuse from Mom and stepdad Sam continues. He details watching Sam throw his mother through a window, feeling compelled to lie that everything is OK when the police investigate, being attacked by his mother with scissors, and attempting to protect his younger brother from the unabated violence. Linking all these incidents is the mystery of what happened to Rex's half sister, Marisa, who was born and died while Rex was away visiting other family—a death that his mother claims is Rex's fault. The events depicted are often excruciating, but Ogle also addresses some of the reasons for domestic violence (including unaddressed trauma and being abused as a child), the decision to interrupt the cycle of abuse, and the need to cut ties completely with one's abuser. While Ogle acknowledges that this will be too intense a read for many, other readers will see themselves in Rex and appreciate the hope he offers: life can get better. Appended with an author's note and referral sources, this should be widely available to anyone who needs it. - Copyright 2021 Booklist.
School Library Journal - 11/01/2021 Gr 7 Up—"Your sister is dead, and it's your fault." This haunting declaration sets the tone for the author's life when, at age seven, he returns from a three-month stay with grandparents in another state to be forced by his frantic mother to look at photos of his stillborn sister Marisa. In this follow-up to Free Lunch, his 2019 memoir about childhood battles with poverty, Ogle details years of merciless violence—emotional, psychological, and often physical—as mom and stepdad Sam brutalize each other and each of them attacks him. He recounts how, when the police show up at their apartment, he feels pressure to lie to keep the family together for younger brother Ford. Throughout, he is advised and comforted by a fleeting dream of Marisa. Despite all this, Ogle shows a remarkable empathy for his parents, both of them victims of severe domestic abuse in their own childhoods, as well as for his mother's struggle with mental illness and Sam's with alcohol addiction. Frequently coarse and profane language may be off-putting for sensitive readers. Instances of homophobia and anti-Hispanic bigotry (Ogle's mother is Mexican American), amplified by derogatory epithets, nonetheless serve to frame his social isolation. The volume closes with a list of resources for suicide prevention and combating domestic violence, as well as a Q&A with Ogle from earlier this year. Though the subject matter is harrowing and it is at times difficult to continue reading, Ogle's message throughout is focused on survival and hope. VERDICT Highly recommended for all middle and high school collections.—Bob Hassett, Luther Jackson M.S., Falls Church, VA - Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.