Lilah and I read this chapter book, the first in a series, over just a couple of days. We had trouble putting it down.
Lilah’s assessment: “Come on! It’s about kids who rescue cats! That’s awesome!”
The narrator, Kelsey, is having a rough time. After her father lost his job, she had to move from her house to an apartment that doesn’t allow pets. So she lost her beloved dog, Handsome. She still gets to visit him at her grandmother’s house, but it isn’t the same. She is a bit obsessed with Becca, one of the popular girls, but Kelsey is more or less invisible. Her path crosses with Becca’s when she helps Becca catch a runaway zorse (from the animal sanctuary Becca helps her mother run) and they hear kittens meowing pathetically from a dumpster. They are unable to open it themselves, and Becca runs for help. The only help she can find is super-nerd Leo Polansky, but he manages to use some physics to pry open the dumpster and rescue the kittens. The three become unlikely friends, caring for the kittens in a disused shed at the animal sanctuary. They decide to find the horrible person who dumped the kittens and raise money for kitten supplies by finding lost pets (and there are a LOT of lost pets in town).
The good: I really liked the emerging friendship between three very different kids who probably would never have even talked to each other without the strange circumstances throwing them together. Their dedication to helping animals was also commendable. Singleton also makes a point of discussing ridiculously lax animal welfare laws (when Kelsey assumes the bad guy will go to jail, Becca explains that the laws mean that isn’t true), which are worth talking about. The group has a really strong sense of justice, and they place the welfare of the animals above their own petty disagreements. The mystery was very well-plotted, and each member of the club contributes in a way fitting to his or her strengths (I especially enjoyed brilliant but socially awkward Leo’s contribution via a drone he builds).
The bad: Really, nothing too bad here. I was afraid that Lilah would be too upset by a person tossing kittens in a dumpster to die to even read past the first chapter, but a reassurance that they were fine kept her going. Kelsey’s obsession with Becca is a little weird, but they become genuine friends. There’s some weird “romance” kind of thing with Becca and Skeet, who bullies Leo. I found Becca’s unwillingness to believe Skeet was a jerk to be unrealistic. I also was perplexed by the way the three pretend not to know each other at school. Sure, they don’t want anyone else to know about the kittens, but couldn’t they at least sit together at lunch? Say hi? Other than these minor quibbles, this was an enjoyable read for both parent and child.
Source disclosure: I received an e-galley of this title courtesy of the publisher.