BookPage Teen Top Pick, April 2017
Sisters Gem and Dixie only have each other. Their parents’ marriage ended when their drug and alcohol addictions made it difficult to hold down jobs, let alone raise a family. However, when the girls are in high school, Dixie receives a letter from their dad, who wants back in their life. Dixie, younger and still easily charmed by their father, falls for it, but Gem isn’t fooled. Their father arrives, certain that their mother will take him back. But she kicks him out again—after he stows his backpack full of money in the girls’ room. Upon discovering the backpack and its contents, the girls take their own adventure, leading them to realizations about themselves and each other.
Sara Zarr returns with one of her most heartfelt books yet. Gem & Dixie packs a real punch, highlighting the ugly truth of severed relationships and the loneliness of a broken home. She examines the inner workings of a sibling relationship that was once close but grows more and more distant. Gem is a particularly strong character; she struggles with her belief that it’s her sole responsibility to ensure that the family doesn’t fall apart. At Gem’s core is the fear of abandonment, whether by her own will or by her parents. Meanwhile, will Dixie ever fully understand her parents, and will Gem ever forgive them?
Other characters are equally rich in depth, each contributing to Gem and Dixie’s adventure, including a transgender girl who befriends Gem, and the school guidance counselor who helps Gem unpack her feelings.
Intense, honest and at times heartbreaking, Gem & Dixie can be hard to read. Zarr sheds light on the life of a teen who doesn’t have it all and is struggling to grasp what she has left. Tackling trust, honesty, faith and hope, this novel is sure to strike a chord with readers coming from similar situations.