Summary From Goodreads:
Samantha Jean Haggert is a beautiful twelve-year-old girl—but no one knows it. All they see is an awkward boy in a baseball cap and baggy pants. Sam’s not thrilled with the idea of hiding her identity, but it’s all part of her older brother’s plan to keep Sam safe from male attention and hidden from the law. Fifteen-year-old Jacob will stop at nothing to protect his sister, including concealing the death of the one person who should have protected them in the first place—their mother.
Sam and Jacob try to outrun their past by stealing the family car and traveling from West Virginia to Arizona, but the adult world proves mighty difficult to navigate, especially for two kids on their own. Trusting adults has never been an option; no adult has ever given them a good reason. But when Sam meets “Jesus”—who smells an awful lot like a horse—in the park, life takes a different turn. He saved her once, and may be willing to save Sam and her brother again, if only they admit what took place that fateful day in West Virginia. The problem? Sam doesn’t remember, and Jacob isn’t talking.
I received a lovely signed copy of Desert Rice in a giveaway from Angela Scott herself about a month ago and now I (finally!) got the chance to read it. Without further ado, my thoughts on Desert Rice!
I’ll be honest, I haven’t read a whole lot of books with a 12-year-old girl’s point of view, so I didn’t really know what to expect in terms of how the character would narrate her story. My first impression of Sam was that she was woefully, and a tad annoyingly, ignorant of a lot of things. I don’t remember much about being 12, but I don’t recall being so unaware of the world as a whole. However, as I read Desert Rice I discovered more and more that what Scott was likely doing in showing that ignorance was highlighting the pathetic excuse for an upbringing that both Sam and her brother Jacob received. Sam is a character that Scott clearly poured a little extra of her writer’s essence into, she’s someone you instantly want to befriend and protect, and the lengths that her brother goes to do so seem justified by more than just their family link. She’s as innocent as they come, molding herself only by what she sees in the few encounters that she is allowed to have with the world but she has the typical stubbornness of someone her age which makes her feel all the more real.
Which brings me to Jacob. He has both of their lives on his shoulders, plus the additional weight of keeping secret what happened to them both from everyone they encounter, and from Sam as well. He puts on a brave face most of the time but some frustration does leak through, mostly fueled by what Sam had went through (can’t be any more specific, spoilers!), and a bit of a typical teenage male’s difficulty with being around his kid sister all the time. However, Scott makes it readily apparent that Jacob cares deeply for Sam so his occasional outbursts don’t demean him as a character, they even prove to separate him from other books where this character is often a cardboard cutout.
The plot might be the one complaint I have for Desert Rice, and keeps it from being among my favorites. It’s a bit obvious based on the summary where the journey is going to end up, even if the details to get them there aren’t clear. There is a slight twist at the end, don’t worry I won’t spoil it, but not enough of one to really shock you. I would also say that Sam’s indecision at certain parts, even for someone her age, was a tad ridiculous, maybe she thought she was doing what was best for them, but it was irritating to say the least. The pacing was good, though, and there was enough action in Desert Rice to keep the reader engaged while developing the characters at the same time.
There isn’t much to say about the world building as far as just the setting goes. I don’t know much about Arizona outside of the obvious, but Scott seemed to have a pretty good feel for what it is like there, and I’ll take her word(s) on it. The cowboy-type of people that were described at times were a little over the top, and though there may still be some smaller towns where these descriptions would be accurate, it just felt a little off. The setting at least felt realistic enough, so I guess I’d give this area a check mark for completion if not an outstanding (channeling my inner teacher there, weird I know).
Overall I enjoyed Desert Rice. The characters were the highlight of the book without a doubt, and I loved Sam, she was just excellently done. It was a quick and pleasant read and a big thank you to Scott for doing a giveaway so that I could enjoy the book. Thanks as always for reading this and I will see you tomorrow for Day 6! ^.^