Monday, August 20, 2018

The Dollar Kids

Millville is a dying town. The mill has closed, businesses have left, and the school is struggling to stay open. To help encourage new families to move to Millville, the city offers a select few homes for only one dollar. Families apply and those selected are granted a home by lottery.

Lowen's family takes the plunge and applies for a house.  His sister, Anneth, is not very keen on the idea but his parents try anyway. They end up being selected and decide to give it a go, knowing that a change may help Lowen move on after his friend Abe died.

The transition is not pain-free and the repairs needed to be done by a deadline are rather daunting. Given the low enrollment, sports is not optional but rather expected. So Lowen finds himself trying to learn soccer and basketball when he'd rather do other things (and not have to be compared to his athletic older brother).

Not all the families find they can make a living in Millville. Lowen's family struggles to keep open a new restaurant while their dad holds down his previous job and only sees his family on weekends. As the deadline approaches and the repairs multiply, Lowen is wondering if they'll have to call it quits and admit defeat.

The Dollar Kids is a fantastic tale of a family pulling together to sacrifice and work hard to make a better life for themselves.  They experience the challenges of being newcomers in a very tight-knit and not always welcoming community.  I loved seeing how the characters develop through the story: older brother, Clem, learns some home skills to help with repairs; Anneth blossoms as she is encouraged to use her gifts, and Lowen, works through his grief while trying new things.

Kudos for a middle school book that is not laced with vulgarity. There are some sibling tensions but nothing out of the ordinary; the overall impression is of a family that sticks together through tough times. One of the Millville transplants is a same-sex couple but they play a very minor role in the story. If you were reading the book out loud, that portion could easily be edited.  Or it could provide an opportunity to discuss with your kids some of the families they may encounter in life. I appreciated that it was not a significant part of the storyline.

Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of The Dollar Kids from NetGalley for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received.

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