cover image Peas and Carrots

Peas and Carrots

Tanita S. Davis. Knopf, $17.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-553-51281-6

The daughter of an abusive father and drug-addicted mother, 15-year-old Dess has led a tumultuous life, hopping from one social-service placement to another. Now, with her father in prison and her mother planning to testify against him, Dess has a chance to reunite with her four-year-old brother, Austin, if she can bear living with his rich foster parents. Even harder to tolerate is the Carters’ nerdy teenage daughter, Hope, who is the complete opposite of aggressive, hard-edged Dess. Alternating between the girls’ perspectives, Davis (Happy Families) insightfully traces the difficult adjustments each teen faces, coexisting in a home where everyone is supposed to “choose kindness” in all things. Davis gracefully and honestly addresses Dess’s discomfort in living with parents of another race (she is white, while the Carters are black), and the misunderstandings borne out of prejudice. Yet the central focus remains on Dess and Hope’s internal conflicts, which run deeper than their current living arrangements, particularly as Dess faces a hard choice: protecting a member of her birth family or remaining with a family she has almost begun to trust. Ages 12–up. [em]Agent: Steven Chudney, Chudney Agency. (Feb.) [/em]