Jump the Cracks by Stacy DeKeyser. (Grades 6+)
The world is a dangerous place. Every kid needs a safe home. Every kid deserves to be loved. Is that so much to ask?
Victoria is on a train to New York City when she first sees the kid. Well, actually, she first feels the kid. Kicking her seat. Which is really not cool.
Then she notices the bruises on his arms. And the way his mom is feeding him nothing but orange soda. And how she jerks him around and scolds him for falling onto the floor.
And then the mom gets off the train in New York City and leaves the baby behind in the restroom.
What is Victoria supposed to do? She can't just leave him there. Who knows what might happen to him? And the whole situation has gotten her thinking about her own dad who, ever since the divorce, has been making promises he couldn't keep, has been letting her down and not showing up. And Victoria is just sick of all the promises grownups make that they don't keep. And she can practically see this toddler falling through the cracks.
So she takes him.
She had no idea how much trouble it would land her in.
I opened this book and was immediately sucked in to the story. Despite the madcap situation, Victoria is a realistic character. She's idealistic. She truly thinks she can save this kid from whatever his fate might be. And she's got a lot to figure out about her own life and family.
One of my favorite things about the story is that Victoria reaches out for help almost immediately. She tries to tell her dad what happened, to explain how she ended up skipping her train stop and why she has a two-year-old with her. Her dad's too impatient to listen to what she has to say and Victoria has to take matters into her own hands and do what she thinks is right. Still, she knows that she won't be able to take care of him forever, and she keeps tentatively reaching out until she finds an adult she feels she can trust.
Not everyone agrees with me. Check out Reviewer X's review. (While I can certainly see what Steph is saying, I will say that it was Victoria's internal journey that intrigued me more than the actual action of the story. She's finally taking ownership of something and finally dealing with her issues about her parents' divorce.) You'll also want to visit Stacy DeKeyser's website. This is another Flux title and I have to say that I've really enjoyed the ones I've read so far.