Land of Forgotten Girls
by Kelly, Erin Entrada

Living in poverty in Louisiana after being abandoned by her father, a young girl from the Philippines endures the cruelty of her stepmother and protects her younger sister by escaping into imaginative fantasies about their world-traveling aunt, whom she hopes will come to their rescue. Simultaneous eBook. 30,000 first printing.

*Starred Review* Soledad's life in a small Louisiana town has its bleak aspects. The 12-year-old lives in low-income housing with rats in the walls, but worse than that is the evil stepmother who cares-as little as possible-for Sol and her younger sister, Ming. The girls came from the Philippines with their father and Vea, who only married him to get to America. Their father, however, returned to the Philippines, yet Vea keeps the girls for the assistance money. Despite all that is wrong in Sol's world, she has a soaring imagination: a punishment closet can transform into a castle, and her third sister, who drowned back in the Philippines, can appear like an angel. There is purpose in Sol's life, too: taking care of Ming and having fun with her friend Manny though his desire to kiss her seems silly. Kelly's sophomore novel is both hopeful and heartfelt, but strong emotions are only part of the successful equation here. Told in Sol's true voice, the direct dialogue brings the diverse characters to vivid life. For example, an elderly Chinese neighbor, who speaks almost no English, is so beautifully cast that dialogue isn't even necessary. One caveat: the lighthearted cover depicting Sol and Ming having backyard fun may suggest to readers that this is a breezy read, when in truth, it is so much more. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

Two Filipino sisters living with their mean stepmother discover hope in unexpected places. Kelly (Blackbird Fly, 2015) returns to southern Louisiana in her second book. Twelve-year-old Sol has no family left except for her youngest sister, Ming. Soon after they immigrated to a small Louisiana town, their father returned to the Philippines, abandoning the sisters with their unhappy stepmother, Vea. Sol imagines herself and Ming as princesses fighting an evil dragon in order to endure their stepmother's verbal and physical abuse, their subsidized apartment building becoming a fairy-tale tower. She and her best friend, Manny, befriend a white girl from the other side of town, and Sol begins to rely less on her stories while Ming desperately holds on. When Ming announces that an aunt will save the sisters from their evil stepmother, Sol can't bear to tell Ming that the aunt doesn't exist. Always the strong older sister, she desperately searches for a solution before her heated re lationship with Vea explodes. Kelly deftly captures the tumultuous emotions of a preteen who is forced to grow up faster than other girls her age. The book focuses mostly on Sol's inner struggles, however, and it lacks the momentum to turn its quiet characters into a full-blown tale that effectively handles the class and race issues that it touches upon. A promising story that doesn't quite find its footing. (Fiction. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus 2015 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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