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Children's LiteratureTen years ago, Freda Opperman had the sort of life-altering experience that is instant front-page news: at the age of nine, she was held hostage by a gunman in a family restaurant. There were other hostages, too, but Freda seemed oddly apart from them; while her parents shopped next door, she had returned to the restaurant in pursuit of the Wild West sticker that should have accompanied her lunch. She had no relationship with anyone else at the restaurant, and no one she could count on. Each person was concerned with his or her own survival. Ostensibly, as demanded by the gunman, in the care of the restaurant manager, Freda did not know what to make of the situation. After thirty-six hours with a deranged gunman spitting conspiracy theories, Freda was glad to return to the arms of her mother. But she was a very different girl than she was at the beginning of the siege. Now, years later, she is still struggling with the aftermath of that terrible event. What does it mean to have survived, when two other people died? What was her role in the situation? What dark secrets does Freda keep about those days? Can she really move forward without coming to terms with the past? The novel is a grim, gripping story that examines serious issues of identity, society, and survival against the harsh background of brutal trauma. 2002, Dutton/Penguin, Ages 12 to 16.
—Heidi Hauser Green