Desert Rice by Angela Scott
Publisher: Evolved Publishing (206 pgs)
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rated: 5 Stars
Review by Poppy
Samantha Jean Haggert is a beautiful twelve-year-old girl, but no one knows it. All they see is an awkward boy in a baseball cap and baggy pants. Sam’s not thrilled with the idea of hiding her identity, but it’s all part of her brother’s plan to keep Sam safe from male attention and hidden from the law. 15-year-old Jacob will stop at nothing to protect his sister, including concealing the death of the one person who should have protected them in the first place–their mother.
Sam and Jacob try to outrun their past by stealing the family car and traveling from West Virginia to Arizona, but the adult world proves mighty difficult to navigate, especially for two kids on their own. Trusting adults has never been an option; no adult has ever given them a good reason. But when Sam meets “Jesus”–who smells an awful lot like a horse–in the park, life takes a different turn. He saved her once, and may be willing to save Sam and her brother again, if only they admit what took place that fateful day in West Virginia. The problem? Sam doesn’t remember, and Jacob isn’t talking.
Stunning. Disturbing. Touching. Raw.
And even those words don’t do this justice. Ms. Scott has got serious writing chops. She made me love this book, even though it’s nothing like my usual choice for reading and even though it’s terribly sad and tragic for the vast majority of its pages. She creates incredibly real characters in Jacob and Sam, then puts them in a place that broke my heart.
They aren’t always the most endearing of people. They do things that are frustrating, dishonest, and heart-rending. But they always love each other, and they always determine to make a life for themselves. Jacob’s first and only real goal in life it to take care of his sister. As we learn the truth of what happened, we understand what drives him so frantically to keep her safe.
Sam doesn’t remember what happened to put them in the place where they are. And she’s remarkably typical for a girl her age, except that she’s dressing and acting as a teenaged boy. No punches are pulled in this book; there is language, graphic situations and more. Even something like Sam’s first period are described so clearly I was cramping up right there with her.
Thankfully, all is not bleak here. Eventually they meet a good-hearted man and his girlfriend who take them under their wings, but even that doesn’t go smoothly.
This isn’t a book for light reading. It’s one you will think about long after you finish and wonder if this is how it truly is for some kids out there. It’ll make you grateful for your rather normal life and will cause you to count your blessings, no matter how small.
Reading Desert Rice is a life-changing experience and I’m glad I was able to read it.