Knopf, 2007 (2007)
Read an Excerpt
Reviewed by Hilary Williamson
hough Charity Meyers is a child of privilege, she does not lead a particularly happy life. Her rich dermatologist/inventor father spends his time at golf and football games, while her ex-stepmother Mickie (who still shares the family home) exploits every detail of their life together to film her popular
Living With ...
his is a near-future world with a widening gap between rich and poor - the former living in fortified enclaves, served by
Royal Domestic Service
employees who follow rigid rules and are not even allowed to use their own names. The children of these households associate only with each other and attend
. Charity, whose mother died when she was seven, sees their maid Victoria as a surrogate mother and - though it's forbidden - helps her with her work at every opportunity. Charity lives in Florida in a secure, walled estate called
, and is guarded everywhere she goes by butler/bodyguard Albert.
ne shadow over the lives of these wealthy families is the risk that their children will be
, kidnapped for ransom. It happened to Hopewell, the brother of Charity's best friend Patience, and left him scarred inside and out. As the story opens, Charity - a modern Rapunzel - has also been
. After she awakens inside an ambulance, guarded by a dark-haired sneering boy named Dessi, she does what she has been trained to do - recalls happier times to avoid despair, and tries to connect with her kidnappers. She succeeds to some extent with Dessi.
he kidnapping story develops slowly via Charity's flashbacks and then takes a very sharp and surprising turn into a different kind of tale altogether - one in which Charity is required to make a difficult choice. That final twist - and its consideration of whether or not the end really justifies the means, and of what matters most in life - elevates
to another level. This is one to read and talk about, with teachers and friends.
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