M.G. Hennessey knows that some children lead tough lives. Her debut, The Other Boy, tackled what it’s like to be transgender, and her sophomore novel, The Echo Park Castaways, takes readers into the foster care system. Alternating perspectives follow Nevaeh, a black eighth-grader who dreams of becoming a doctor; Vic, a Salvadoran-American fifth-grader whose father was deported and who disassociates by assuming a spy persona; and Mara, a tiny Latinx third-grade girl with limited English skills. Together they live with widowed, overworked Mrs. K in her Echo Park, California, home. In this insightful story, their set routines are disrupted by the arrival of Quentin, who has Asperger’s.
When Quentin becomes adamant about seeing his sick mother, Vic takes on the challenge of Quentin’s reunion. When quiet Mara sneaks along, Nevaeh, the caregiver of the group, must find them and bring them back before their foster mother decides to kick them all out. It begins as a doomed trek filled with buses and unknown neighborhoods, but a string of unexpected joys, truths and one life-altering Ferris wheel ride weave through the day.
Hennessey tempers the harsh realities of these “castaways” with hope and love. While the four children know they’ll probably always be in the foster care system, they’re also held together by an unbreakable bond of support and family.