Ana Cortez is fifteen, an orphan living in Los Angeles and being moved around the foster care system. She's just been kicked out of her latest foster home, and has only one chance left before she is put into a group home: to become a farm trainee in Northern California for the summer. Ana jumps at the chance to get out of L.A. and lands at the Garber farm run by Abbie and Emmett Garber. Abbie is a whiz at cooking and has a pretty good business selling Garber produce, jams, pickles, preserves, and even hard cider to folks around the small town of Hadley. Emmett runs the farm, and he's a bit taciturn and all business. Ana is completely hopeless when it comes to working on the farm, but hopes to make it to her sixteenth birthday, so she can become emancipated. Afraid to get too comfortable, she's a bit stand-offish with Abbie, who hopes time, good food, and a place to call home will help Ana find a sense of peace.
Ana's character is pretty interesting. She's a brilliant artist, and is never far from her sketchbook. She's well spoken, smart, and very conscious that the wrong word will send her back to a group home in L.A. She's hard on herself, and afraid to hope for a permanent home at the Garber farm. Ana meets Rye, a local teen girl who can't wait to get out of Hadley and into the big world. A quick bond forms, and both girls get into a bit of trouble as the summer progresses and Ana stays on the farm to finish school and help the Garbers. And then there's the mysterious Cole, a popular kid who keeps trying to talk to Ana. His connection to the Garber family creates tension and jeopardizes Ana's chance of having a permanent home with Abbie and Emmett.
This was a different book for me to read. I thought it felt like a teen novel, even though it is packaged as an adult novel. Themes of abandonment, family, standing up for yourself, and recognizing love it all of its manifestations run through from beginning to end. If there are more sequels to Ana's story, I'd probably pick them up. I'd love to see her progress from a fifteen year old orphan finding a new family to a poised, confident young woman ready to experience what the world has to offer her.
Enjoyable, quick read. If you're a fan of Anne of Green Gables, by all means read this nod to a classic. If you're unfamiliar with Anne, don't worry. It's not necessary to know Anne's story in order to quickly get into Ana's world and cheer her on.
Rating: 7/10 for a contemporary story about the difficulty of the foster care system in the U.S., as well as warm, not perfect-but flawed characters, and plenty of love and devotion to the small American farmer.
Available in paperback and e book.