Shaw (thinandbeautiful.com) doesn't have trouble creating obstacles for her main character, 15-year-old "fostergirl" Sadie. A string of unsuccessful foster placements has landed her in a group home with five other girls ("Messed-up babes from all over the place"); an overeager guidance counselor at her new school has diagnosed her with a learning disability; and Rhiannon, a chronically chipper student determined to befriend Sadie, won't shut up. In fact, Shaw's biggest challenge is making caustic, self-deprecating, and distrustful Sadie likable. Fortunately, she succeeds. Sadie, though tough as nails, narrates her story with an amusing edginess that works. Shaw keeps things PG-rated (with little swearing, minimal drinking, and practically no drugs or sex) while highlighting the reality of life as a foster child. An accident late in the book adds an unnecessarily melodramatic note and the book's ending is abrupt—a quarrel with Rhiannon is hastily resolved, and readers are left with the impression that Sadie's circumstances are improving, though far from perfect. But for readers seeking an honest account of how a girl without parents survives, this story delivers. Ages 13–19. (Aug.)
"Shaw gives a realistic portrayal of a foster girl's life of uncertainty, hopelessness, and the inability to change her environment. She cannot make decisions; she has no choice about whom she lives with and where she lives. The novel realistically shows the solitude and loneliness Sadie goes through as she tries to figure out what she wants and who she is. After reading this novel, readers will realize that there is always light and hope in the next corner. Recommended."
"There is much about this book that speaks to the foster system's well-meaning but often flawed initiatives and how easily these initiatives can be misinterpreted or go horribly wrong. Sadie's character is genuinely engaging and portrayed against the backdrop of adolescent angst and an often inadequate system, it works."
Libraries and Young Adults blog
"The first-person perspective is what makes the book for me. Being inside Sadie's mind is the best way to understand her avoidance of friendship and her difficulties with school work. From the very first chapter Shaw had me interested in the point of view with this description of the school system...This is an important novel for anyone to read."
Library of Clean Reads blog
"Fostergirls will be counted among my favourite reads of 2011...The author's professional experience in the field of education shone through in this novel and she portrayed the challenges both of the foster care parents and the kids, as well as the school system so realistically...Overall, this was an inspiring and revealing book. I highly recommend it to teens, social workers, parents, and teachers. What a great read!"
Children's Literature - Greta Holt
It is the first day of school, and Sadie is determined to disappear into the maze of this newest high school, her thirteenth. No more messing up. The group home she is assigned to simply must be her last home in the system. Sadie hates school, hates being in foster care, and does not particularly like anybody. She feels ready to live on her own upon turning sixteen, only a few months away. Within the first week, Sadie mouths off to a teacher and is suspended. Then talky, perky Rhiannon latches on, and Sadie's defenses begin to crumble. Rhiannon is an optimist. Her family takes in foster kids, causing Sadie to wonder if Rhiannon is making a project of her. Moved by Rhiannon's cheerfulness, but afraid of the relaxed intimacy of Rhiannon's family, who have taken her in temporarily, Sadie rebels by going to a drug party. On the way home, the car is wrecked. Writer Shaw creates a sympathetic character in Sadie and a fine side-kick in Rhiannon. Both characters change and grow throughout the narrative, and yet Shaw, who worked with foster kids, does not offer easy answers. For example, the information that Sadie finds out about her real family is not encouraging. In addition, Sadie must accept having a learning disability. Yet, Sadie's well drawn voice indicates a developing appreciation of other people. The book gives a satisfying narrative, with clear plotting and complex characters. Reviewer: Greta Holt
VOYA - Sarah Sogigian
Sadie is a fostergirl. She does not remember her life or her family before going into the system. She has been in and out of homes since she can remember, but this time is differentnow it is a group home. With nothing more than a few articles of clothing and two pairs of shoes, Sadie goes through all the motions. She goes to school, keeps her head down, and avoids the others in the home, all so she can get out . . . out of school, out of the system, and out on her own. But in this home, Sadie finds herself in her most terrifying experience yet: being surrounded by people who support her: Rihannon, her friend who never stops talking, even when Sadie ignores her; Sadie's guidance counselor, who believes that Sadie is capable of more than dismal grades and telling off teachers; and Rihannon's mom, who feels that Sadie wants to be better than who she is. Sadie's struggle to overcome the cards she has been dealt is inspiring, and the author writes from a very honest and real perspective. Sadie's story will resonate with readers, no matter their background. Her experiences, feelings, and actions are common among teens. The book does not have the stereotypical happy ending, but readers will be satisfied knowing that Sadie's story is just beginning. This book is recommended for all public and school collections. Reviewer: Sarah Sogigian
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—At 15, Sadie Thompson enters her 13th school and a group home. Her goal is to lie low so that she can fulfill her probation and convince her social worker that she is a candidate for emancipation at 16. All she wants is to be left alone, and she has no intentions of making friends. To cope with the instability and lack of control in her life, she shuts everyone and every emotion out. Over time, she develops a friendship with a classmate, Rhiannon, and learns to trust a guidance counselor instrumental in diagnosing her as learning disabled. When she lands in foster home 13 and learns the truth about her "biomom," a bad choice puts her in the hospital. Shaw's description of Sadie's attitude toward school and the testing process that labels her as learning disabled is detailed, as is her look into the lives of foster children. In fact, the depiction of Sadie's emotional void is so well done that readers learn very little of her past other than the highlights, and some might feel the lack of background and connection hinders the plot. Still, Shaw manages an authentic and accurate story. Overall, Fostergirls will engage many reluctant readers and fans of problem novels, and it will have a special appeal to other "fostergirls" and those struggling with learning disabilities or school.—Adrienne L. Strock, Maricopa County Library District, AZ
Fifteen-year-old Sadie provides a moving depiction of life as a foster child.
After 12 placements, beginning when she was about three, Sadie, always a survivor, is now living in a group home in a small Canadian town. Though the reasons that she's been shunted from one foster family to another have varied over the years, to Sadie they all spell rejection. Since she has been all but lost in the system, her learning problems have been ignored, and school has become a cycle of failures that parallels the lack of adult affection she's suffered from. Her edgy, always authentic present-tense voice rings richly true. As she describes it, "Right now, my hope is buried so far underground that I would need a shovel to dig it up." She's befriended by Rhiannon, an unpopular but kind girl with a motor-mouth and lots to offer a teen without roots: Loving, warm-hearted parents, a welcoming home and even some homework help. But past experience has taught Sadie too well; if she gets comfortable with her current life, she'll probably be snatched away from that and placed somewhere else to start over. Strong character development and believable situations provide a robust foundation for her excellent, ultimately hopeful tale.
Sadie's edgy account of finding a real place for herself in the world will keep readers thoroughly engaged. (Fiction 12 & up)