The Cold Millions

HarperCollins/Harper. Oct. 2020. 352p. Tr $28.99. ISBN 9780062868084.
Gr 9 Up–When his mother dies, Ryan, 16, joins his 23-year-old brother, Gig, for a life on the road. They travel from Montana and reach Spokane, WA in time for the free speech riots of 1909. Teen readers will see that current demonstrations and complaints about police brutality have a long history. Handsome, charming Gig suffers in jail after speaking out while Rye is helped by 19-year-old Ellen Gurley Flynn, union organizer and agitator for the poor, the cold millions. Curious readers will want to learn more about this real-life character. Rye joins her to visit nearby towns to try to raise money for the cause while Gig sits in jail. They almost lose their lives in a mining camp because of a terrible betrayal and return without the money Flynn was able to raise. The poverty and violence of the early 20th century may be upsetting to some readers, but Walter brings the struggles of the time to vivid life. Most characters are white.
VERDICT A page-turner by a talented author who depicts fascinating characters both real and imagined.

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