Friday, August 15, 2014

"Finding Keepers" by Kristi Strong

Finding Keepers
by Kristi Strong

Finding Keepers is currently on tour with Itching For Books. The tour stops here today for my review and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

Starting a new life is never easy, but Alyssa Doe has turned it into an art form. Abandoned by her parents at age ten, six years in foster care has taught Alyssa how to get through life the hard way.
Now sixteen and growing desperate for a stable life, Alyssa finds herself puzzled by her newest keeper, twenty-five year old Jessica Sona. A feisty woman who does not accept no for an answer, Jessica’s insistence and passion for safety, family, and unconditional love begin to break down Alyssa’s walls and bring her hope, a dangerous emotion.
Can such a thing as family and love exist for a girl whose birth name is Doe, or will Alyssa be forever left finding keepers?

The rubber swing creaked as she swung, cold twilight air rushing against Alyssa’s face as she gave Brianna time to find the words to describe her feelings. A creak sounded from the swing beside her, and she heard Brianna take a deep breath.
“I don’t know what to do, Alli.”
“About what?” Alyssa glanced at her, noticing that her friend had dug a small hole in the dirt under the swing, and now sat with her cheek pressed against the chilled metal.
She shrugged, the herringbone pattern of her thick wool coat rising and falling with the motion. “Everything. School. Friends. Life. It’s just so damn hard, and I don’t know why. Sometimes just breathing is such a struggle.”
Alyssa remained silent a moment, pushing her swing back and forth with her feet, trying to find the right words to help.
Brianna wiped away a tear and leaned back in the swing. “You know what, it’s stupid. Just pretend I didn’t say anything. Everything is fine.”
“Hey,” Alyssa gently pulled on the chain of Brianna’s swing to bring her closer. “If it has you this upset, then it’s not stupid. Definitely not nothing, which means it’s something. And you are totally not fine right now.”
“I have no right, none at all, to talk to you about life being difficult.” She gave a bitter laugh that turned into a sob and swatted at another tear that dropped from her eye. “That’s what makes it harder though. I have absolutely nothing to complain about, and yet ...”
“Bri,” Alyssa began.
“No!” she interrupted. “I know it’s true. I have two loving parents in a committed marriage, and a big house, and pets, and a room filled with clothes, and pretty much anything I ever wanted, within reason. I’ve never had to worry about having food to eat, or clothes to wear, or boys touching me without permission. It’s not like I’m rich, and going to be driving a Benz or anything, but I know that when I get my license I’ll have a car to drive and parents who will let me drive it and be able to call it my own.”
Brianna paused, and Alyssa could see the metal chain shaking from the trembling of her friend’s body. She reached out and held out her hand, palm up, in the air next to her. Brianna reached out and took it, linking her fingers with Alyssa and holding tight, as if it were a rope ready to pull her to shore.

Some of My Favorite Lines
"She made sure that her time in the bathroom was five minute or less, careful to never impose on anyone else's needs."
"... she just had no time or energy to devote to developing relationships of any sort. Besides, friendships just made it harder when the white car pulled up and took her to a new town, new school, and new life."
"Nice on the inside or not, she had to pay attention to the appearance of the crowd around her, because that was the crowd her new keeper would see, and that was what her judgment would be based upon."
"She knew it was not attraction, because she had felt that before, or even a desire to know him better. Instead it was almost a feeling that she had come home, that she had finally found her safe place, and those feelings were dangerous."
"So now she just hid all of the pain and bitterness deep inside where no one could find it, and heaped the coals over her own soul instead of using it to punish others for the hurt they inflicted with their words."
"Caleb Rose, the gothic punk rebel with a flower for a last name."
"Just for today, I'll sit here and act like I have a friend, or might have a future. Tomorrow she would need to figure out another seating arrangement, because she knew if she let herself get close to a guy like Caleb, her life would never be the same."
"As she grew, Alyssa only saw a mother who wanted to be anywhere except standing in front of the little girl who loved her without reservation."
"Which version of Alyssa Doe would fit in best at this school? Which me did she want to be?"
"As if math wasn't hard enough to begin with, someone had to go and add letters to it. So not cool."

My Review

By Lynda Dickson
Alyssa Doe has been in the foster system since she was ten, when her mother dropped her off at school one day and never picked her up. Alyssa has suffered both physically and psychologically as a result. She spends her life trying not to impose on others for fear of being labelled a nuisance. She keeps all of her precious possessions in her backpack, which is with her at all times in case she has to move home suddenly. She doesn't know if she can ever trust a male again after an incident at one of her foster homes. She has dreams of being a whale trainer, but really all she wants is to not grow up like her own mother, with a "teenage pregnancy and apathetic future".
Now six years later, it is Alyssa's tenth first day of school in the last six years. She has just moved in with her newest foster parent (or "keeper") Jessica Sona, a twenty-five year old loan officer. On her first day of school, Alyssa meets bad boy Caleb and Brianna, who just moved there last year. Turns out Alyssa isn't the only one with problems, and they might all have to lean on each other to get through the tough times. But what could Jessica possibly want with a sixteen-year-old foster kid? With the love and support of Jessica and her new friends, will Alyssa finally get her happy ending? And has she finally found a keeper who wants to keep her?
Finding Keepers is a heartbreaking account of one young girl's journey through the foster system. We are given glimpses into her past experiences with different foster families, or "keepers" as calls them. The term "keeper" is so sad because it makes Alyssa sound like she's an animal. There are a number of editing errors, but the story is very well-written, and the characters are all believable and likable. The author has conducted extensive research and provides some real-life foster care facts at the end of the book.
My heart-felt thanks to the author for writing such a touching book on such an overlooked subject.

About the Author
Fixing broken computers, wrangling a very spirited little toddler, and creating new fantasy worlds are all parts of the average day for Kristi Strong. While she has called Virginia her home for two decades, her head has rested in two countries, three states, and far too many houses to count. She was more than happy to give up her nomadic lifestyle and settle down with her husband, daughter, cat and chinchilla.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card.