“In Lauren McLaughlin’s brilliant, authentic telling, it’s easy to understand how Isaac ended up going down his particular path of petty crime: “I’m buying something better. Freedom. Not for myself either, but for Janelle. My own freedom will come later, after Janelle’s squared away.” Readers will have tremendous empathy for a boy who will do anything to protect his sister, especially when he starts to wonder if there’s a different route he can take to ‘the free.'”
Shelf Awareness Starred Review

“McLaughlin never shies from her characters’ difficult backstories or the crimes they committed, giving teenagers that society often thinks of as broken a chance to speak, in their own voices.”
Publishers Weekly

“A tight, claustrophobic novel that veers between the terror and camaraderie of incarceration; I don’t know when I’ve read a more empathic novel, and it’s been a long time since I read one that was more sorrowful and joyful at the same time.” 
—Cory Doctorow, New York Times bestselling author of Homeland

“A spellbinding novel about crime, taking responsibility, and finding a new path to justice.”
—Scott Westerfeld, New York Times bestselling author of Uglies and Spill Zone

“A Boston-area youth in juvenile detention finds redemption in stories—his and his fellow inmates’… A penetrating look at the power in the stories we tell ourselves.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Tightly woven, well-paced, emotionally framed, McLaughlin’s novel presents Isaac’s life: his irresponsible mother; his wonderfully brave younger sister; and what he is willing to do to provide Janelle with a safe environment. He has broken some laws and done some bad things, but he is the hero of this story.”

“The story is cinematically gritty, sort of a cross between Boys Town and Dead Poets Society, with lots of enjoyably dramatic breakthroughs in the therapy group and convincing details about racial and personal dynamics in detention (mixed-race Isaac has no obvious crew).”
The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books