Where People Like Us Live

by Patricia Cumbie

Libby is new to Racine and the working-class neighborhood of Rubberville. She is... read more

Libby is new to Racine and the working-class neighborhood of Rubberville. She is both relieved and alarmed when Angie arrives on her doorstep. Angie is all rough edges and bravado, and from the first hour they know each other, there is trouble and tension, but Libby needs a friend. The girls’ interactions shift from innocent (a shared passion for horses, styling each other’s hair) to daring to deeply confusing for Libby. Gradually, Libby begins to realize that Angie’s brash attitude masks desperation, and even fear, whenever her mother’s boyfriend, Kevin, is around. When Libby discovers Angie and Kevin having sex, Angie insists it’s okay and demands Libby keep it secret. Patricia Cumbie’s debut novel keenly captures the wrenching contradictions that are true to being a teenager, when maturity and insight coexist with naïveté and confusion. Cumbie also sensitively portrays a family struggling with money issues, and how each of Libby’s parents are burdened by the desire to maintain their values and dignity while facing the pressure of paying the bills—a reality that is complicated when Libby’s dad goes on strike. With so much of Libby’s own life affected by adult choices out of her control, her decision regarding Angie becomes an act of courage and independence. There isn’t a clear time frame for this story, which feels like it’s set in the 1970s but references present-day technology, but vivid characters and emotions and exceptional descriptive writing stand out. (Age 12 and older)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2009

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