Iris Baldwin is fifteen years old, and feels more alone than she should. Yes, her mother passed away when Iris was only six… but her father is still around. Only he’s not, not really. He is more interested in his successful shoe stores or his latest girlfriend than in Iris. Luckily, Iris does have her best friend Leroy to talk to. But then her father does something unthinkable – he hires Iris out to care for an unknown Doctor’s elderly mother in Missouri for the summer while he and the girlfriend prepare to open a new store in Kansas City. It is a summer that changes Iris forever. She suspects that a neighboring girl is in trouble, and Iris must try to find a way to help – no matter the consequences.
I picked this book up on a whim while at a local independent bookstore. I hadn’t heard anything about it, but something brought me to this book, and I’m so glad it did. My cover told me that it was a William C. Morris YA Debut Nominee, and I found out later that it also won YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults last year. It clearly is written for young adults, and features a young adult protagonist… but the writing is not what I would consider “typical” for YA. I don’t know quite how to describe this without sounding condescending toward other YA writing… but this book somehow seems more serious. More somber. I think it could cross over to adult audiences well.
Iris is an amazing character. You have every reason in the world to feel sorry for her, but she won’t let you. She craves love and attention, but she will not come begging for it. It is true that she needs to stand up for herself more, and it is a journey for her to find that strength. She seems so young and fragile when we first meet her, but she is quite a strong young woman by the book’s end. Dr. Nesbitt and his mother are just about the best people Iris could have been sent to live with. It might have been the best thing Iris’s dad ever did for her. They are not perfect people, and I think Iris gives to them as much as they give to her. I just absolutely loved them. I can picture them clearly and warmly, and I want to go live with them too. Leroy was more than I expected, and pleasantly so.
I did not race through this book, but rather I feel like I absorbed it; drank it in if you will. I felt like a part of the setting… that I was sitting at the Nesbitt’s kitchen table, or riding the train with Iris. Even though this story is set in the 1920s, the truth of Iris’s journey is timeless. I really enjoyed the way this story was told… and if this is a debut – I am certainly going to look for more by this author!
Crossing The Tracks
by Barbara Stuber
Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2011. First published 2010.
Source: Purchased New
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