This new novel by Mimi Thebo gives a moving and gripping portrayal of a teenage girl growing up and learning lessons the hard way. It tells the story of Jules, a rich, entitled and troubled teenager, who has veered so far off the rails after failing a ballet audition that she has caused the serious injury of a fellow pupil. Her efficient, distant business woman mother takes the decision to uproot Jules from her comfortable, indulged, if lonely, life in London and send her to live on her aunt’s farm in the wilds of Kansas.. There, the love is tough, the rules are strict and Jules, at 14, is thrown into hard farm work, learning to drive, coping with a new school and new relationships and discovering a family past that she hardly knows about. In the empty Kansas landscape she begins to dance again, watched by a lone coyote, and the two form a subtle bond that empowers Jules to rebuild her life, to learn about her part-Cherokee heritage and to work for what is important to her.
This is a beautifully written teen story with a deeply sympathetic and believable central character who changes and develops greatly throughout the book. The themes of growing up, dealing with disappointment, taking responsibility, learning from mistakes and building relationships are powerful. The almost spiritual link between girl and coyote, together with the depiction of a sparse, open landscape, give a haunting feel to the novel. Jules is impressive, resilient and honest and the reader roots for her throughout this poignant, memorable book.