Take the poignancy of the romance in A Walk to Remember, mix in some of the dog appeal of Because of Winn Dixie, and you will have an idea of the emotional weight of this story. Ben is a boy who was adopted by a wonderful speech therapist named Tess. Although his home life is now great, he is still at the mercy of bullies at school and the fear of losing the security he has found. And then, one day, a dog follows him home. It seems like such a small thing, perhaps, a boy finding a stray dog. But that one small dog changes everything.
There are so many themes worth discussing that are addressed in this book: the issue of babies born with drugs in their systems, or to mothers who are drug users; the foster care and adoption system; bullying in schools; pediatric cancer treatment; friendship; family; the importance of caring adults in the lives of students...I could go on, but you get the idea. Ben's relationship with his mother (Tess), with the librarian (Mrs. Lorentz), with his friend (Halley), all show what an awesome kid he is. It makes it even more painful to see him go through one difficulty after another, but keeps us reading in the hope that things will work out for him.
The two things I enjoyed the most about this book were the fact that one of the coolest adults in Ben's life is a librarian (hooray for media specialists), and his friendship with Halley. I love the support that the kids give each other, and the projects they take on together. They show how creative teens and preteens can be, and how altruistic.
Highly recommended for grades 5 and up. I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.