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Lost. It's the word America uses to describe himself. He was "lost in the system," as he likes to say, for 15 years, abandoned by his mother and abused by a foster uncle. He drifts from foster care to a park bench to a juvenile detention facility, eventually landing in a mental hospital where he begins therapy with the calm Dr. B. A series of flashbacks takes the reader from America's childhood abuse and abandonment to the present, where Dr. B. sets out to make America see that a person is not necessarily bad at heart just because they have done bad things in the past.

Through many hours of patience and quiet questions, Dr. B. helps America to see that there have indeed been people in America's past who cared about him, whether or not he realized it. America has spent years denying that anyone could ever love him because of the bad things he's done, letting his sadness cloud thoughts of Liza, Fish, Ernie, his brother Brooklyn, and Mrs. Harper, who have all cared about America more than he cared about himself. It's not an easy journey for him, but it is a believable one.

Unlike so many other books where the main character seems too wise beyond his years, America's voice is true to the thoughts of a teenager. He never loses the foul-mouthed edge on his personality, but at the same time the reader sees his good heart. America is a jagged, beautiful story of triumph, love, and understanding in the face of neglect and depression.

Reviewed by on February 1, 2002

by E. R. Frank

  • Publication Date: February 1, 2002
  • Hardcover: 242 pages
  • Publisher: Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books
  • ISBN-10: 0689847297
  • ISBN-13: 9780689847295