Four Star review, originally posted here on January 20, 2015.
Not too much to say here- this book’s pretty straightforward. Walls’ parents were completely nuts, which means they made for some really fascinating characters. They were also completely horrible parents who deserve to be locked up for child abuse (amongst other things), which put the author and her siblings into really fascinating situations. So overall, this book was very interesting to read.
I would, however, chop the end considerably. Everything in New York had to either be shoved into a single concise little epilogue, or else given its own book, in my opinion. Some of the other reviewers complained that the book sends the wrong message and glorifies Walls’ parents, and I didn’t know what they meant until I got to the end. I tend to agree with them. I get the whole “they’re my family and I still love them even if they were awful” thing, but at the end everyone’s sitting around and reminiscing about the dad and being all happy family time let’s sing kumbaya and smile about what an adventure it was that we were literally starving. I would have instead ended the book on the most powerful revelation: the fact that the mother had land worth millions of dollars the whole time. It’s not like this part was surprising at all, but it really nailed home the theme of the whole book- these kids weren’t stuck in their shitty lives because their parents couldn’t find work or were down on their luck; these kids had shitty lives because their parents were too irresponsible and/or mentally ill to take care of the one thing in the world that should have been most important to them- their family.
Definitely worth a read. Just prepare to be depressed and frustrated beyond belief.