Title: The Art of Running Away
Author: Sabrina Kleckner
Genre: Middle Grade Realistic Fiction
Number of Pages: 256
Artistic talent comes naturally in twelve-year-old Maisie’s family. Her parents own a business for commissioning portraits and Maisie loves helping them out with her own artwork. But then her mom sends her to stay with her aunt in Scotland over the summer, saying she wants Maisie to get some life experiences and not get pinned down by only one thing.
Maisie is furious; art is the one thing she cares about and she feels like her parents are taking it away from her. When she finds out the business is in serious danger of going under, her anger turns into despair and through a series of surprising events she ends up in London with the brother she hasn’t seen in years. But what happens when their reunion digs up some family secrets that change everything? It turns out Maisie’s family’s issues with Calum’s sexuality caused him to leave years earlier.
When I skipped through the book description, I assumed Calum’s parents kicked him out because he was gay, but it turned out the truth was more complicated. Afraid for his safety, they wouldn’t let him be open about his sexuality and show affection with his boyfriend in public and her got angry with them and left.
I had mixed feelings about this; if the community was really so toxic towards gay people maybe they were trying to do what was best for him, even though they obviously ended up hurting him. I think it was ultimately worse that they didn’t tell Maisie what had really happened, so she grew up thinking her brother abandoned her. Still, just totally cutting off contact with them seemed harsh.
I really appreciated how flawed both Calum and Maisie were, and I loved the more playful aspects of their relationship when they got to know each other better. Maisie’s impulsive, stubborn, and sometimes self-centered and Calum’s a standoffish oddball but I fully enjoyed seeing the growth of their relationship. This is a very solid debut and I’m looking forward to seeing what Sabrina Kleckner does next.