Chasing the Milky Way
by Erin E. Moulton
Intermediate, Middle School Philomel 279 pp.
6/14 978-0-399-16449-1 $16.99 g
Just-turned-twelve Lucy Peevey lives with her mom and sister in the Sunnyside Trailer Park. Though she thinks of it as “a black hole of a place,” it’s not all bad; next door is her best friend Cam, with whom she’s building a robot for the BotBlock Jr. Robot Challenge. Lucy and Cam have their obstacles. One is money: they’re short on the entry fee, and neither of their moms can afford to contribute (both dads are long gone). Lucy’s mother is a Robert Frost scholar who suffers from bipolar disorder. When Lucy’s grandma was around, the family functioned reasonably well; Gram died a year before, though, and now Lucy shoulders the burden. After an out-of-control episode at Lucy’s school, Mama takes off in the car with both daughters…and Cam. An Amber Alert is issued, and Lucy sees her dream of competing in the robot contest slipping away. Moulton effectively balances the big-picture issues with the smaller stuff, the day-to-day challenges each character faces and the triumphs he or she achieves. Flashbacks recall Lucy’s past birthdays, including one in which Mom abandoned the girls in a parking lot and another that culminated in an idyllic midnight beach walk. An appended author’s note reveals Moulton’s motivation for writing the story — to counter fears and misconceptions about mental illness and help readers “recognize the humanity in us all.”
From the May/June 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.