Know My Place by Eve Ainsworth is a sensitive story about a teenager searching for home and family that explores complex issues surrounding foster care with kindness and understanding. An empathetic read for teens, it would also be useful for secondary schools as a prompt for discussion and for use in PSHE lessons.
Teenager Amy has been in foster care since the age of six. Her first placement has just ended and Amy is sent to live with her new foster family, the Dawsons. Experience has resulted in Amy being wary and at first she feels like an outsider and fears that this new relationship will break down just like the previous ones. Initially reluctant to trust, gradually she finds that the Dawsons are kind and she starts to relax and her hopes for a happy future increase. However after a turn of events she fears the worst and that this family has been too good to be true after all.
In short novellas such as this it is important that the reader quickly feels an involvement with the characters and the voice of this particular teenage narrator is perfect for encouraging this. Amy is instantly engaging. She tells her story through current events interspersed with a look back at her previous foster care experiences. This structure allows the reader to gradually understand why Amy is so vulnerable and lacking in trust.
Despite the complex issues involved in the subject of foster care and the sadness experienced by Amy in the past this is ultimately an uplifting story. Eve Ainsworth’s experience in pastoral and child protection roles gives this story an authenticity that increases the reader’s empathy with Amy. The adult characters are portrayed as people with a mix of flaws and strengths and this feels realistic. Whilst never straying into melodrama or mawkishness the author has created a story that conveys heartbreak, grief and loss with a compassion and understanding that results in this feeling a hopeful book. The ending is realistic and satisfying without being fairy tale like. I had grown to care about Amy and I think teen readers will do so too.
As with all Barrington Stoke books this is presented in a super readable style making it suitable for dyslexic and reluctant readers. It would also be a great book for a more confident reader looking for a quick read. Although the subject matter makes this a book for a teen audience it has been edited to ensure that it has a reading age of 8+.
I should like to thank Kirstin Lamb and Barrington Stoke for providing my review copy. Know My Place was published on 1st July and is available to purchase on the publishers’ website.
Another book from Barrington Stoke which deals with social issues experienced by families is Pickles The Dog That Saved the World (Cup) by Phil Earle. This tells the story of a family struggling with the prospect of homelessness and is another kind story but for a slightly younger readership.