The Echo Park Castaways by M.G. Hennessey

Published July 2nd 2019 by HarperCollins

Nevaeh, Vic, and Mara are veterans of the Los Angeles foster care system. For over a year they’ve been staying with Mrs. K in Echo Park. Vic spends most of his time living in a dream world, Mara barely speaks, and Nevaeh is forced to act as a back-up parent. Though their situation isn’t ideal, it’s still their best home yet.

Then Child Protective Services places Quentin in the house, and everything is turned upside down. Nevaeh really can’t handle watching over anyone else, especially a boy on the autism spectrum. Meanwhile, Quentin is having trouble adjusting and attempts to run away.

So when Vic realizes Quentin just wants to see his mom again, he plans an “epic quest” to reunite them. It could result in the foster siblings getting sent to different group homes. But isn’t family always worth the risk?

REVIEW:

“Yeah, but we’re the other kind of castaway. Like the things people throw away, get it?”

I looked at him. There was a deep sadness underneath his words, even thought he’d tried to say it casually. “Castaways are survivors, right?”

All Nevaeh wants to do is keep Mrs. K happy and one day get into medical school. Vic spends most of his time in a fantasy. Mara does as she’s told and only speaks when absolutely necessary. Their life isn’t perfect, but it’s the best they’ve ever had. But everything is turned upside-down when Quentin, a boy with autism, is introduced to the family.

All Quentin wants is to go back to his mom. So Vic decides to help him, and plans a “quest” that will take them miles from the only home they’ve ever known and into uncharted territory with unknown dangers. Nevaeh knows it could get them all kicked out of Mrs. K’s, regardless of whether the “quest” is successful or if it fails. But sometimes the most unlikely family is the best there is.

This book was tragically heartwarming. Each character had their own devastating past, fears, and fantasies, but the resolution was a lot happier than the introductory chapters. I loved how I got to read the story from multiple characters’ perspectives, which gave the story a lot more depth and feeling than it would have had if it had been told through one character.

My recommendation would be for middle grade readers. It’s a easy read, but when the plot of the story dives into some of the characters’ pasts there are some things that might be a little much for younger readers. There is minimal coarse language (though known is extreme), and there is neither violence nor sexual content.

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