Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Millions Ways Home by Dianna Dorisi Winget

Poppy Parker has lived with her grandmother practically her whole life.  But now Grandma Beth has had a stroke and can't take care of Poppy anymore, which means Poppy is stuck in an orphanage.  Things get even more confusing when Poppy is witness to a crime and the police want to keep an eye on her until the suspect is caught.  Poppy ends up in the home of Detective Brannigan's mother.  Poppy just wants everything to go back to the way it was before, but some changes are here to stay.

A lot was going on in this book.  There's Poppy having to deal with her grandmother's stroke and scheming to get her home, there's the crime Poppy's seen committed and maybe the suspect is looking for her, there's the German shepherd, Gunner, at the animal shelter she volunteers at that might get put to sleep.  It was a lot, and sometimes it seemed like all the different plots were fighting against each other.  Most of the time, however, I suspended my disbelief because it was a good story and I liked Poppy.

Poppy is described as being "impulsive."  She doesn't always think things through.  It's because she so much wants to see her grandmother she can't wait another day and heads out on her own to find her, even though she doesn't even really know where the nursing home her grandmother is recovering at is, that she inadvertently is a witness in a drug store robbery gone wrong that leaves the cashier dead. Poppy was face-to-face with the bugler.  The police don't have enough people to make sure Poppy is safe at all times while they search for their suspect, so Detective Brannigan brings Poppy to his mother's house.

 Poppy feels uncomfortable being there at first, but it's a relief not to be in an orphanage anymore.  She's hoping she'll be able to stay there until her grandmother can come home.

While all this is going on, Poppy makes friends with a girl named Lizzie, whose mother owns an animal rescue.  Poppy joins Lizzie volunteering there and falls in love with a dog named Gunner, who has a violent past.  Poppy is convinced Gunner isn't dangerous.  If only she can make other people see Gunner's potential.

The biggest thing that Poppy struggles with is that everything is changing.  She wants everything to go back to the way it was before, when it was just her and her grandmother.  But it's starting to look like things will never be able to go back to the way they were.  And Poppy is afraid of what will happen to her.  Her worry also brings up her resentment of her parents, who were killed while teaching abroad when she was a baby.

There was a strong theme of second chances.  Gunner gets a second chance to show he can be a good dog.  Lizzie gets a second chance to show her mother and Detective Brannigan that she's not a bad kid.  Detective Brannigan gets a second chance to protect a child he cares about, and Poppy gets a second chance at a family.

The books ends as happily as it could.  Poppy will never be able to go back to her old apartment and live with her grandmother, but she has a family that will take care of her.  She will not be shunted around from one foster home to another until she's 18, as she feared.  She and Lizzie are close friends, and Gunner wasn't put to sleep.

Some serious themes are dealt with; death, violence, sickness.  But it was all handled in an appropriately middle grade way.

A Millions Ways Home comes out on August 26.

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