If this is based upon real life in some small sense, why not lead with that? Maybe I missed something stating that, but I don’t recall it. It wasn’t until I read the discussion from the author after the story was over that I came to realize how much of this was based in reality. Here I was thinking I was just getting something vaguely Fisher King-esque, only for kids. Little did I know, it was ripped from reality and spiced up with some narrative flair (AKA, artistic license) by Pearsall. I think I would’ve been a lot more kind to it had I known that the whole time. As a story, it’s fine enough, but as an attempt at working real life into a serviceable story, it’s far more interesting, because I honestly was thinking to myself at points that this stretched believability.
That being said, I still feel the writing itself is a bit pedestrian, the morals a bit too in-your-face and shoe-horned in. For a young adult book, it feels to me like one of the more preachy ones, and I tend not to like my books preachy no matter the target age range because I think people learn best when it’s not the literary equivalent of Navi shouting “hey, listen!” The message is an admirable enough one, I’ll admit. I just wish it was a little more subtle in the way it went about presenting it.
More than anything, though, I think the story would be best served by slapping a “loosely based on real events” tag somewhere on the cover, or in the book itself. It’s too juicy to bury that lede, I think. But what do I know?