Title: Harry Sue
Author: Sue Stauffacher
Genre: Middle Grade Realistic Fiction
Number of Pages: 304
Harry Sue is a troubled 11-year-old girl whose mother is in prison for cooking meth. As if that isn’t bad enough, her grandmother (and guardian) is a hateful woman who abuses the children in her daycare. Harry Sue has an unusual aspiration- she wants to commit a serious crime and be sent to prison so she can see her mom again. Unfortunately she’s too tender-hearted to easily become a felon and her desire to help her grandma’s daycare kids and her quadriplegic best friend Homer overpower any desire to commit wrongdoing.
Harry Sue is a great character and it’s her unique, sardonic voice that really makes this novel work as well as it does. Most of the characters are thoroughly believable, although none of them are as three-dimensional as the protagonist is. The only character I really didn’t like was the woman who becomes Homer’s physical therapist. She was way too over-the-top and her dialogue and behavior didn’t make much sense. The novel is surprisingly dark for a middle grade book, especially when you find out Harry Sue was thrown out of a window by her dad during a domestic dispute.
Overall, though, it’s a story about hope and overcoming neglect and abuse, with a heroine who is believably flawed and vividly realized. I really didn’t like the ending, though- there’s a big climactic tragedy and then everything resolves itself way too fast. I was left with a lot of questions and I felt like the tragic event that befalls one of the grandma’s daycare kids felt like a plot device. I might have given this book an A if it weren’t for the weak ending. Otherwise, it’s a keenly felt book about a girl who doesn’t seem to have much of a chance in life beating the odds.