December 05, 2011

Fostergirls

by Liane Shaw
Second Story Press
978-1-897187-90-6
256 pp.
Ages13-16
2011

Regardless of how romanticized the life of an Anne-of-Green-Gables orphan may seem, living apart from family, whether you have one or not, is hardly a life of fulfilment.  Sadie Thompson, 15, knows this all too well, having endured the moniker of "fostergirl" for the past 12 years, although she now has progressed to that of "grouphomegirl."

With moving onto her thirteenth school, Sadie is determined not to be singled out for help of any sort, believing that if she just keeps to herself until her sixteenth birthday, she can get out by requesting legal emancipation (freedom to get her own place and get a job).  But her plans not to engage with anyone are set awry.  At school, she meets chatterbox Rhiannon Kerry who chooses to make Sadie her friend, and then Ms Jackson, a guidance counsellor, who believes that a learning disability may be at the root of Sadie's school issues.  Both seem to see something beyond Sadie's "fostergirl" label.

At the group home, Sadie tries to stay under the radar of the other fostergirls: Alisha (who continuously proclaims that her alcoholic mom will be taking her home soon), Buffy (who regularly snaps and becomes vicious) and two inseparable younger girls whom Sadie calls the K's (Kendra and Krista). Sadie convinces herself that she really doesn't care to know what has brought them into care, including knowledge of her own story (beyond her memory of wandering door-to-door with a five-year-old brother).

Having and being a friend are foreign to Sadie.  So, when she is told that Rhiannon is also labelled a "fostergirl" (because her mom and dad are enthusiastic foster parents to numerous children) and is just "collecting" another foster child in Sadie, Sadie uses that to rationalize a return to her disaffection.  But a death, a tragic accident, some educational testing, and another transfer (because of the closing of their group home) all bring Sadie to a point she never envisioned for herself: feeling embraced by caring.

Liane Shaw's professional background in special education has provided her with the experiences and understanding to share the narratives of any number of Sadies.  However, it is Sadie's voice, one based in despondency and unrecognized courage, that prompted me to investigate for myself the extent of  issues troubling children in foster care.  Sadly, my cursory search suggests that Sadie's educational and socio-behavioural challenges are not unusual amongst foster children.  As such, I congratulate Shaw in providing such a convincing context by which the lives of many foster children are expressed, and the impetus for the reader to pursue greater understanding with empathy.

Check out Second Story Press' book trailer for Fostergirls on my Book Trailer page

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