The Runaway’s Diary

Little, Brown. Apr. 2022. 280p. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9780316395427; pap. $17.99. ISBN 9780316500234.
Gr 5-8–Eleanor, a gloriously auburn-maned high school outcast, boards a bus to Seattle to find her runaway older sister, and in the process becomes a runaway herself. When she touches down in the big city, she stumbles into the world of young unhoused people, finds her touch as a storytelling busker, and ultimately starts to unravel the mystery of her sister’s disappearance. It sounds like a potentially dark story, but it has a persistently peppy tone, replete with trips to Seattle tourist landmarks such as the Space Needle, the Central Library, and Pike Place Market. Serendipity finds Eleanor supported by a grumpy woman from her bus who houses her briefly, then by a cute blond busker boy who keeps her company. She never goes hungry, she’s never assaulted, and she brushes shoulders with drug users for a mere moment. The detective work of following her sister’s trail and flashing back to their complicated relationship at home makes for a very readable story, and Wicker’s colorful, straightforward illustrations make the streets of Seattle a rather appealing place to be unhoused. The narrative’s gentle tone makes for an enjoyable, if sitcomlike read, but the saccharine simplification of runaway life may feel off-putting for more critical readers. All the major characters in this story appear to be white.
VERDICT A energetic read with a tenuous presentation of unhoused life.

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