Laurie lives with her mother, stepfather, and two stepsiblings. Her stepfather is often gone on business trips. When he's home, he's generally kind, but oblivious to the fact that Laurie's mother abuses her. She's kept this secret ever since her birth father left when she was three.

When her mother gets angry she takes it out on Laurie, beating her and confining her. In front of other people they both pretend it didn't happen, and they never talk about it. Her mother explains her bruises and scars and frequent trips to the emergency room as a result of Laurie's clumsiness. She has moved frequently, and keeps Laurie from developing friendships.

But Laurie does find friends, first in a new next-door neighbor, a boy with a hospital record of his own who walks on crutches, and then in her stepbrother, who begins to realize what's happening and conspires with her to get help. Eventually she is released from the cycle of abuse when her mother is hurt in an accident and the three children seek refuge with the stepsibling's grandmother. Laurie's stepfather apologizes for his inattention and promises her the safety of the grandmother's home for the summer and their home again when her mother has had treatment for her abusive behavior.


This book, accessible to kids from about 10 on up (the main character is in 5th grade) is carefully and caringly written. It is explicit about the patterns of abuse, but only one scene details the way her mother beats Laurie. In other scenes Laurie is being taken to the hospital, explaining away bruises, etc.

It could be very helpful to kids who feel alone either with physical abuse or with other forms of dysfunction in their home life; one of the basic messages is that help is available in neighbors, police, hospital personnel, teachers, etc. (though the school nurse in this story is too preoccupied to notice the need). Laurie is an appealing and believable character.


This novel won several awards.


Simon & Schuster: Alladin

Place Published

New York



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