The spunky fourteen-year-old Magda’s life turns upside down after she learns that she’s an adopted child and has a twin sister who lives in Scotland. Determined to find her real family, Magda embarks on a solo trip to the other side of the ocean. Kawatski’s power of description is remarkable, whether conjuring up a teen trying to hitchhike or a young girl battling hunger, injury, and a hostile wilderness with her little dog. She comfortably sets the scene as Magda decides to venture into the world, alluding to the life of struggles to come. Kawatski brilliantly renders Magda’s fiery nature as well as her vulnerability along with her relentless sense of alienation. Around halfway into the book the focus splits between the twins, but it’s Magda and Sky who stay at the heart of the story. Through Magda’s story, Kawatski provides a fascinating study of a psychologically scarred yet resilient young girl. Sky with his devotion and love will just about break the reader’s heart. The moving prose of Magda’s diary entries make her pain palpable, and her hard-won transformation will leave readers touched and inspired.
A fast-moving, emotionally involving plot, deeply realized characterization, and the story’s overall gritty realism make this a winner.