Adults make that difficult, of course, both at the systemic and personal levels. Most worrisome is Lewis, a neighbor who watches the children’s apartment window and seems to know more than he lets on. (He calls Isabella “Bella Beauty” and makes declarations like “Just so you know, I keep secrets really good.”) As spring turns to summer, and Isabella tries to keep everyone fed and make sense of SNAP and unemployment benefits, Lewis grows creepier, the story grows darker, people from Chandra’s church begin sniffing around—and, reeling from shocks and trauma, Isabella and co. must face the possibility of discovery.
Throughout, Peluso demonstrates a firm command of how complex societal systems work (and fail), from Oakbriar to the state of Florida to a community-minded church and, ultimately, the justice system. She also understands the hearts and fears of kids, how daunting and inhumane those systems can appear from the outside, and the preciousness of stability and love. The storytelling tends toward a reportorial directness, as if she’s documenting a true case and trying not to editorialize. That approach distances reader from character, but it doesn’t diminish this scenario’s pained urgency—or ultimately hopeful conclusion.
Takeaway: A pained, realistic novel of children left parentless by the pandemic and vowing to get by on their own.
Great for fans of: Erin McKenzie’s Taking Chances, Cris Beam’s To the End of June.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A-
“Covid Orphans: Collateral Damage by Teri Peluso is a fantastic social novel. There are so many positive aspects of this book. I recommend this book to people who work directly and indirectly with the foster care system. The book shows how faulty the system is and how some of those faults can be fixed through the help of the government and private stakeholders. I also recommend it to individuals who are recovering from any form of sexual assault and rape; this book shows how people can overcome, heal, and seek justice for such crimes.”
“Loved it! A moving, heartbreaking, and triumphant story about family and community in the face of evil. This story is an important one, and I could even imagine it being made into a film, as there are many highs and lows and twists that would make for an epic, excellent, cinematic story. I look forward to reading more by this author. “