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Russ Thompson
Taken Away

HIGH-INTEREST NOVEL FOR RELUCTANT TEEN READERS. Miles Pruitt has been struggling in high school. When his dad is sent to prison, things get worse. Miles quits studying, receives low grades, and gets kicked off the basketball team. How will he pick himself up and move forward? Lexile measure 390L.

Thompson (Torn) continues his Finding Forward series with the heart-rending story of Miles, a 15-year-old whose life is upended when his father is sentenced to prison. After accepting money from his boss in exchange for burning down the restaurant he works in, Miles’s father receives a long prison sentence—made worse by the fact that a fireman was seriously injured during the fire. Miles, already struggling in school, is heartbroken and can’t figure out where to turn with his father gone. When he sees his dreams of making the basketball team going up in smoke along with his family life, Miles has to find the personal strength to keep moving forward

Though Taken Away takes on challenging topics, Thompson does so with grace, eliciting both Miles’s emotional torment and eventual comeback in relatable and poignant language. As Miles walks readers through his fears of failure and immense grief, there are glimmering moments of hope that will inspire: his basketball coach never fails to deliver uplifting messages at just the right time (“You can do anything if you set your mind to it and work hard”), and Miles’s extra work in school eventually pays off. When he finally gets back on the team, he’s learned not to give up—even after failing to make the winning shot in his first game, a lesson that will resonate with readers facing their own natural self-doubt.

Thompson deliberately leaves the ending with loose ends to allow readers the opportunity to meld the story to their own experiences, though he deposits a hint of optimism that things may work out ok for Miles after all. Regardless, readers will be left with the knowledge that life can be tough, but giving up will only make it worse—and the solid advice that “Sometimes people seem hard on the outside. But that’s not how they are on the inside.”

Takeaway: The inspiring story of a teenage boy picking up the pieces after his father goes to prison.

Great for fans of: Ali Benjamin’s The Thing About Jellyfish, Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl.

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