The Great Jeff

288p. Little, Brown. Mar. 2019. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780316479691.
Gr 6 Up—In this companion book to Abbott's 2006 novel Firegirl, the focus shifts to eighth-grader Jeff Hicks. Jeff is forced to attend the public middle school after his dad, who left the family when he was nine years old, stops providing the financial support that paid for his private school. When his mom loses her nursing job because of her drinking problem and can no longer pay bills, the pair face a tough new reality. They are evicted and bounce from a run-down motel to a friend's house and spend a cold night in the car before landing in a shelter. Jeff wants to keep his situation a secret from his friends and teachers. But as his appearance changes due to skipping meals to save money and not having access to clean clothes or a shower, his counselor and a classmate notice. Just as Jeff and his mom reach rock bottom, help arrives from a surprising source: Tom, a friend from his old school with whom he had a falling out last year. This realistic and moving portrayal of a family living in poverty will have readers rooting for Jeff, whose initial anger grows into resilience. While the story works as a standalone, readers of Firegirl will find resolution to some prior storylines as familiar characters cross paths with Jeff.
VERDICT A powerful and realistic story of a boy coming of age with a family in crisis.

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