Full Text Reviews:
Booklist - 02/15/2015 As fifth-grader Footer Davis and her best friend, Peavine Jones, investigate the shooting of an elderly farmer and the disappearance of his grandchildren, Footer begins to wonder whether she is going crazy like her mother and, worse, if her bipolar mother is a murderer. This suspenseful story, set in a small Mississippi town, explores themes of domestic violence and mental illness in a way that highlights the support of caring parents, neighbors, and other adults. In the course of the second week after the fire that destroyed the Abrams’ house and, perhaps, killed the children, Footer begins to experience what she first thinks are hallucinations and later decides are flashbacks to the night of the tragedy. Her first-person narrative is interrupted by entries from Peavine’s investigative notebooks, Footer’s school essays, and her changing theories. This tightly woven mystery also includes a tender friendship evolving into something more. That Peavine navigates on crutches is so matter-of-factly treated, readers may not even notice. For middle-graders, this is a sympathetic exploration of some difficult issues. - Copyright 2015 Booklist.
School Library Journal - 02/01/2015 Gr 5–7—An average 10-year-old would likely pick up this book expecting a "Wimpy Kid" epigone—especially with the playful cover art. What Vaught has given readers instead is a highly didactic, heavy-handed approach to the topics of mental illness, genetics, Common Core, and gun control. This failure is compounded by the format: protagonist Footer's story is told through a combination of journal entries and school essays. Footer's mother, who is bipolar and through the course of the novel confined to a mental hospital, is one of several suspects in the murder of an elderly neighbor and the likely murder of his two grandchildren. Footer is not sure if she witnessed these events or has hallucinated them. At one point, social workers force Footer's dad to get rid of the guns in their house. Dad is less than pleased, believing that "guns don't kill people, people kill people." What mystery there is does not remain so for long. VERDICT Vaught's book lacks a realistic voice, adequate pacing, and sufficient drama.—Nina Sachs, Walker Memorial Library, Westbrook, ME - Copyright 2015 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.
Bulletin for the Center... - 06/01/2015 Twelve-year-old Footer Davis wants to be a journalist, and her best friend, Peavine, wants to be a detective, so the two set out to solve the mystery of their neighbor’s murder and the fire that may have killed his two grandchildren. Footer’s distracted from her investigations, though, when her mother is hospitalized for bipolar disorder. Now Footer has to deal with a nosy social worker, a teacher she hates, and some pesky hallucinations that might be traumatic memories of abuse she actually witnessed or might be, she fears, indications that she too will suffer from the same mental illness as her mom. Footer’s tongue is as sharp as her mind, and she has no problem sticking up for herself, even when the odds are against her. Vaught keeps up the energy of the reading experience by mixing in various other elements, including Footer’s illustrated school reports and lists, witness interviews transcribed by Peavine, and journal entries written by Peavine’s precocious little sister. A busy cast of likable small-town southern folk brings authentic variety to the mix; Peavine has cerebral palsy, for instance, and Captain Armstrong, a neighbor, suffers from PTSD, but like Footer’s mom’s bipolar disorder, these are just things you cope with as you go about your business. Footer ends her journalism career with a solved crime and a new understanding of the mentally ill, social workers, and herself; readers who appreciate a mystery with heart, humor, and a little trauma will enjoy this. An interview with the author and suggestions for further reading, fiction and non, on brain disorders follows the text. KC - Copyright 2015 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.