Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Review: The Dollar Kids by Jennifer Richard Jacobson and Ryan Andrews


Twelve-year-old Lowen Grover, a budding comic-book artist, is still reeling from the shooting death of his friend Abe when he stumbles across an article about a former mill town giving away homes for just one dollar. It not only seems like the perfect escape from Flintlock and all of the awful memories associated with the city, but an opportunity for his mum to run her very own business. Fortunately, his family is willing to give it a try. But is the Dollar Program too good to be true? The homes are in horrible shape, and the locals are less than welcoming. Will Millville and the dollar house be the answer to the Grovers' troubles? Or will they find they've traded one set of problems for another? 

Lowen is a very likable protagonist, and a relatable one. Any of us may feel guilt for seemingly inconsequential actions that had unintended, far-reaching consequences. The idea of a fresh start may also be appealing to some, as with the opportunity to take something that has seen better days and make it fresh and new again.

Lowen's family goes into the venture with eyes wide open, but is still hit with disappointments and frustrations. At the same time, new friendships are forged, and some family members discover skills and strengths they did not know they had. Side characters are interesting and allowed to be multi-dimensional, and the conclusion is encouraging.

Lowen doesn't feel he can share his feelings and worries with those around him, so they come out in his drawings. In some books, the inclusion of comic book panels is more distracting or gimmicky than useful, but Andrews' pages add just the right depth and emotion to the story. The scene where Lowen finally 'comes clean' to his new friends is very nicely done, with realistic responses.

Memorable line:
"When you can't trust yourself to do the right thing, you certainly can't trust others."

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