- Where We Used to Roam by Jenn Bishop
Trade ed. ISBN 9781534457294 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 9781534457317 $10.99
Reviewed from digital galleys R Gr. 4–7
Emma O’Malley experiences the all too common trials and rewards of progressing to middle school, such as strain with best friend Becca and a sharpened focus on developing her artistic talent. Older brother Austin’s shoulder injury, which requires major surgery and hobbles his football dreams, is little more than background noise early in Em’s social transition, but as her usually supportive brother withdraws into his own misery, Em is left without a sounding board when she makes an ill-considered remark that leads to Becca’s humiliation. Austin is actually in the deepest trouble, addicted to his painkillers and in dire need of rehab, so the O’Malleys send Em off to stay with family friends in Wyoming, leaving her to manage her worries and guilt far from home. Em is gracious enough to make the best of it, though, and she gains valuable perspective on her family’s challenges through a new friendship with Tyler, whose own mother is in prison on a drug-related conviction. Bison sightings and Em’s well-managed encounter with a bison calf that had strayed from the herd also help Em make a positive reconnection with Austin. The two distinct halves of Bishop’s novel are securely harnessed, and the abrupt segue underscores the tailspin into which Em’s life has been thrown. The O’Malleys stay strong, though, and even though the book wisely eschews an unequivocal happy ending, there’s definitely light on their horizon.