Rosie Loves Jack

Peachtree. Mar. 2021. 352p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781682632895.
Gr 7 Up–Rosie is 16 years old, attends a special education program at the local college, and has a dog named Winniebago and a brother named Ben. Rosie also has Down syndrome and is deeply in love with her boyfriend, Jack. Jack experienced a brain injury as a child and has trouble controlling his anger. After a particularly bad outburst, he is sent away to a special program in Brighton. Rosie’s father sees this as an opportunity to keep the young lovers apart, as he doesn’t trust Jack. Rosie has different ideas and cooks up a plan to run away to Brighton. Over her multi-day journey, Rosie travels through London navigating buses and trains and encountering hosts of characters, some kind and some horrific, such as a Polish pimp forcing young girls into sex work. While books that depict people with disabilities having desires and romantic relationships are needed, this one doesn’t quite measure up. Rosie’s first-person voice is inconsistent and she is a character with little depth beyond her devotion to her boyfriend. However, Darbon does successfully and poignantly capture the lack of agency people with disabilities often experience. In fact, it is the inability of Rosie’s parents to acknowledge her desires that leads her to desperate measures. Rosie and Jack are white.
VERDICT Although readers will find themselves rooting for Rosie throughout her journey, this title is not recommended for collections looking to beef up their fiction featuring characters with disabilities.

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