3 out of 4 stars
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After an argument between Russell and his mother’s boyfriend, the police are called. Russell runs away and brushes by the officer, causing him to fall and break his elbow. He is sent to a juvenile detention center. His mother disappears, and his father is in a rehab program. Fifteen-year-old Russell is sent to live with his grandmother, Esther, in North Carolina, while his younger sister is sent to Chicago with the other grandmother. A new school, a new environment, and a loving, supportive family await him in his new community. Will this be enough to overcome the trauma he has experienced or will the heavy burden of neglect and childhood trauma overwhelm him?
The Rankins of Pratt County, by author Robert L. Bingham, is a young adult novel about a young man’s journey through personal hardship. A relatively short read, the story is told in the third person, focusing on Russell and other main characters. I really enjoyed the way that the end of each chapter blended into the next. This gave my imagination a workout as I anticipated what would happen next. Although the book is short, it is not a light read. There are powerful messages not only in the thoughts and actions of the main character, but they are also delivered through tertiary characters. Words from a judge are remembered for a lifetime. Other authoritative influences can indeed make or break a tender psyche.
What I like most about this book is its intricate detail when describing ordinary events. The book focuses on young Russell’s thoughts; his perspective on his life’s events is detailed and insightful. While there are certainly major events in his life, the daily descriptions would certainly appeal to young people. I’m sure young people would be able to relate to his first impression of a new high school and his anticipation of the “stares” from other students. Even the descriptions of food are detailed! The author captures the high school culture well; I found the description of the kids anticipating the bell, the counselor welcoming new kids, and even Russell’s high school schedule to be very realistic.
There is nothing I disliked about the book. It is excellent for its intended audience. There are, however, some minor errors. These errors did not detract from the reading, but there are many of them. For this reason, I deducted one star from the rating and give this book 3 out of 4 stars.
I recommend this book to young adults and teenagers who are looking for a story about a young person’s journey through adversity. I feel teachers and others working with youngsters would benefit from it as well. There is some profanity, and those sensitive to issues of child neglect may be triggered by some parts of the story. Overall, I enjoyed this book and highly recommend it.
The Rankins of Pratt County
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