Desert Rice by Angela Scott
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 older brother’s plan to keep Sam safe from male attention and hidden from the law. Fifteen-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 travelling 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.
Desert Rice is a mystery you just know is going to get worse before it gets better, and also a story of the lengths one sibling will go to to protect the other.
I kept this for a special day, knowing it would be great, and then instead of savouring it, tore through it in one evening. It’s the kind of story you’re not going to want to put down until you know things are (relatively) okay in the end.
Definitely a gritty book, if you’re tired of the fluffy teen romances that dominate the YA market these days, this one might be for you. In fact, I’d recommend it for everyone!
Desert Rice has a – very different – sequel, if you’re interested. However, be warned, unlike this one it is not a YA book. The protagonist is all grown up, and the book deals with marriage and childrearing. It is a very good book, but not as much for younger readers as this one.