Foster Girls

Fostergirls by L. Shaw

Shaw, Liane. Fostergirls. Toronto: Second Story Press, 2011. Print.

The first-person narrator of this novel, Sadie, tells the story of her placement in a group home for girls with few options left open to them. She has lived with several foster parents over the years, and knows nothing about her birth family, other than that she has a brother, and they were both abandoned by their mother. Now Sadie is 15, and due to problems with her latest “pseudofamily,” as she calls them, has been moved to a small town, living in a group home with two workers and five other girls. Sadie is cynical about the move, and cynical that the move will bring any positive changes to her life; she is biding time until her next birthday, when she can apply for emancipation. Sadie's voice reads as authentically adolescent in tone and language, with the exception of the lack of actual swearing, which I find always renders teenage characters as unrealistic.  There is a density to the writing as well, in which Sadie’s thoughts are immediately followed by her explanation of those thoughts. This serves to tell too much about Sadie’s feelings, rather than allowing space for readers to interpret Sadie’s reactions on their own. In this way, the novel at times can read didactically, directing readers towards understanding; it would have benefited from more space for the writing and the characters to emerge without being pushed by the text. Novels about marginalized characters require a more delicate touch, in order to avoid presenting as heavy-handed. Overall, the novel is an honest effort to shine a light on some of the difficulties and stigma that foster kids face, which will likely be interesting for readers who have not had these experiences, and may very well appeal to those who have.

Recommended: 3 out of 4 stars
Reviewer: Allison Sivak

Allison is the Assessment Librarian at the University of Alberta Libraries. She is currently pursuing her PhD in Library and Information Studies and Elementary Education, focusing on how the aesthetics of information design influence young people’s trust in the credibility of information content.