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Review: Don't Fail Me Now by Una LaMarche

Title: Don't Fail Me Now
Author: Una LaMarche
Year Published: 2015

Genre: Youth Lit fiction
Pages: 273
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2015 Google Reading map)USA (MD)

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book):
 Michelle and her siblings Cass and Denny are African American and living on the poverty line in urban Baltimore, struggling to keep it together with their mom in jail and only Michelle's part-time job at the Taco Bell to sustain them.

Leah and her stepbrother Time are white and middle-class from suburban Maryland, with few worries beyond winning lacrosse games and getting college applications in on time.

Michelle and Leah have only one thing in common: Buck Deveraux, the biological father who abandoned them when they were little. After news trickles back to them that Buck is dying, they make the uneasy decision to drive across country to his hospice in California. Leah hopes for closure; Michelle just wants to give him a piece of her mind. Five people in a failing old station wagon, living on free samples at food courts across America, and the most pressing question on Michelle's mind is: Who will break down first--herself or the car? All the signs tell her they won't make it. But Michelle has heard that her whole life, and it's never stopped her before....

Review: I really enjoyed the other Una LaMarche book that I read, Like No Other and so was excited to find this book at my local bookstore last weekend. I was not disappointed!

I really like LaMarche's characters. Michelle could have been a stereotype (African American, almost finishing high school but may not make it, mom in jail, absent dad), but LaMarche ensures that she isn't. Michelle is also smart, aware, scared, brave, headstrong, and caring. While she knows she needs to step in to fill her mother's shoes, she shows that it isn't easy, but that she can handle it without being perfect at everything. Leah could have been the pathetic spoiled white girl, but she really comes through on the road trip, surprising everyone including herself.

The story sounds a bit fantastic: five kids (ages 6 to 17) go on a road trip across the country. Could be fun, could be out of control, or it could be dumb. It is none of those things; this trip is steeped in need, angst, humor, and friendship. All five learn about themselves and one another as well as some hard truths about life. That's what I like about this book: it feels real.

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