At the risk of sounding like a literature professor, this book is completely derivative. It’s set in the 1930s during the American Great Depression but other than that it is a copycat of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn except that instead of the warmth, wit, and almost plausibility of that classic work, this one substitutes child cruelty beyond imagination. In this way it also copies Dickens. I didn’t realize until I heard the author’s postscript that he actually intended to copy both. Why? Dickens was horrific. I finished this only out of duty to my book club, but by coincidence we had just finished reading Huckleberry Finn. The timing was unfortunate.
Another thing I didn’t like was the author’s need to insert 21st Century social issues into a 1930s story (e.g. LGBTQ). The anachronism was jarring and eye-rolling; it appeared the author was just trying to check all the liberal boxes. He must have been afraid to be as authentic as Twain. It resembled a fairy tale in that the children are pure and kind and generous, as are nearly all the poor people, while all the authorities and rich people are greedy and cruel. Real life doesn’t work that way. As if that wasn’t enough to spoil the read, towards the end one character appears to have supernatural powers. Gag me with a spoon. Still, it was readable to the end, so I’ll give it a second star.