Winget, Dianna Dorisi. A Million Ways Home
August 26th 2014
by Scholastic Press
E ARC from Netgalley.com
Poppy lives with her Grandma Beth, since her botanist parents were killed abroad when she was a baby. When her grandmother has a stroke, Poppy ends up in a children's home, where she is not happy. When she tries to go and visit her grandmother on her own, she ends up in the wrong place and witnesses a convenience store robbery that ends in a fatal shooting. Unfortunately, she has given her name to the shooter, who escapes, and ends up in police custody for her own safety. A young detective, Trey Brannigan, takes Poppy to live with his mother, who took in foster children until the death of Trey's father. At Marti's house, she is able to feel cared for and have interests other than her grandmother, especially the troublemaking Lizzie, who is doing community service with her mother at an animal shelter. There, Poppy meets a dog, Gunner, who is slated to be euthanized because he is thought to have bitten several people. Poppy works with him, and gets one of Trey's coworkers to train him for the police narcotics unit. In the meantime, Poppy is afraid that if she identifies the shooter, she will have to go back to the home, so she withholds information. When her situation worsens, she has to decide what the best thing to do will be, for herself and everyone involved.
Strengths: This was really a page turner, and I enjoyed it. My students love problem novels, and this certainly qualified for that, but there was also a bit of a mystery as well. Great cover, nice details about working with dogs, as well as information about foster care and nursing homes.
Weaknesses: A lot going on here. I could have done without the drama involving Poppy's parents, and it was especially sad, if realistic, that the shooting at the convenience store was fatal. Definitely would have left out the brief story of Trey's neighbor who was killed. Yes, these details provide motivation for the characters, but it also makes the book a bit confusing.