One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

One for the Murphys was recommended to me by many of my Twitter friends.  A lot of my middle grade reading had to take a backseat for last few months, as I finished my National Board work and tried to keep up with the reading my students were doing.  I finally had a chance to sit down and read Hunt’s debut novel and I’m so glad that I did.

Carley is placed in temporary foster care after her mother’s boyfriend almost beats the two of them to death.  While her (neglectful and abusive) mother is in a coma, Carley is sent to live with the Murphy family.  What I loved about this book is that Hunt doesn’t place Carley in the family and then turn this into a happy, everyone-loves-each-other story.  It’s realistic, which means you will want to keep your tissues close.  Carley is angry, hurt, and lost when she arrives at the Murphy’s house and she has a lot to process.  The Murphy boys also have to learn to deal with this new “sister” who has temporarily invaded their lives, taking their mother’s attention and time from them.  And Mr. Murphy isn’t all that sure that they are doing the right thing, either.

But this isn’t just a book that will make you cry.  Hunt’s lyrical prose will also have you laughing out loud, sometimes while tears are running down your face.  Carley is a pip, and her attitude will remind you of many tweens in your own life.  She has an attitude, but she is also vulnerable.  She thinks she knows everything, but she’s also lost.  In other words, she is a girl on the cusp of becoming a teenager but she has been forced to grow up too fast.

One for the Murphys was nothing like I expected it to be.  It’s not just another middle grade novel to hand off to girls who like contemporary tales.  I would not hesitate to give this to my freshman, because I think they could get a lot out of it.  Readers are almost forced to empathize with Carley and to contemplate the importance of giving people the benefit of the doubt.  We can never know what another person is going through, so it’s important to be understanding and compassionate.  At the same time, Carley shows the reader how important it is to let your guard down sometimes and let the world (or at least one person) in.

 

Highly recommended.  I also think this would make a fabulous read aloud in middle school classrooms.

 

*review copy courtesy of the publisher

 

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