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Beth Fehlbaum
Author, Service Provider
Find the Moon
Kylie Briscoe’s mama is not just an addict; she’s also a dealer, and anytime she owes her uplines money, she offers them a “square deal”—she trafficked Kylie for sex—and she’s been doing so since Kylie was in middle school. Mama promised her she wouldn't have to do it anymore, but Mama doesn't have a great track record in the promise-keeping department. If she’s lucky enough to be by a window when it happens, Kylie searches for the moon—it soothes her so—but she has no idea why. When the devil himself breaks down their door and it’s abundantly clear that Mama’s once again proposing Kylie as one-half of a “square deal," Kylie can’t take it anymore. She cries for help from a neighbor and gets it—but what feels like a rescue is more like a death when fifteen-year-old Kylie loses her beloved three-year-old sister Aliza, the only person who’s ever loved her, and is taken hundreds of miles away to live with the family Mama said was dead. Now Kylie’s in tiny Patience, Texas with her eccentric potty-mouthed grandmother, ever-patient stargazing grandfather, uncle who reminds her a lot of a cop who terrified her during a drug bust, and a herd of Norwegian Dwarf goats, their “guard donkeys,” and three canine roommates occupying Kylie’s former nursery. The dogs aren’t too sure about sharing “their” bed with Kylie—especially Jake, who Uncle Joey calls “a manatee-canine hybrid.” Ethan, the teen son of Kylie’s English teacher, takes an interest in Kylie and appoints himself her “tour guide” for the tiny two-hallway high school. He warns Kylie to stay away from Casey Tucker, a troubled grieving boy whom Kylie trusts too easily. When the drug charges against Mama are dropped and it appears Kylie might be returned to the Hell her mother subjected her to, Kylie must decide whether to tell the truth—all of it—in order to save herself and her sister.
When her mother offers her as payment for using up the drugs she’s dealing, Kylie Jean Briscoe decides “not again” and flees with her three-year-old sister Aliza. Their neighbor Mrs. McCain rescues them by shooting the assaulter before cops arrive. Kylie moves in with her loving grandparents LeeAnn and Oliver Briscoe in Texas, but is heartbroken as she’s separated from her sister, whose father is awarded her custody. At her new school she’s befriended by Ethan Asher, the son of her new English teacher, Bev Asher, but she feels drawn to Casey Tucker who’s lost his mother in an accident, not realizing her sympathies are undeserved.

The novel, Fehlbaum’s fifth, is narrated by Kylie and her voice comes across as true and authentic. The use of the present tense gives the narration a sense of immediacy and the reader experiences the events as happening in real time. The characters are interesting and the author is successful in portraying Kylie’s great love for Aliza and how deeply responsible she feels for her well-being. Fehlbaum also succeeds in portraying the protagonist’s trauma and her resulting doubts about self-worth, her guilt and the memory of her sexual abuse well, without relying on any direct delineation of the sexual assault, thus enhancing the effectiveness of the tale.

Fehlbaum handles issues of trauma and healing with sensitivity, and the novel’s humanity and insightfulness do not come at the expense of narrative momentum. The pacing, in fact, is taut and brisk, and will keep readers turning the pages, eager to see Kylie’s life of hard choices build to some much-deserved peace. One incident involving Kylie’s uncle using her help to nab student drug peddlers strains credulity, as it puts her in danger again, but this incident doesn’t mar the overall story or its impact. Readers will find this tale of deep sisterly love and human resilience a heart-warming and inspiring read.

Takeaway: A heart-warming and inspiring tale of sisterly love and resilience.

Great for fans of: Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, Patricia McCormick’s Sold.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A