Reading/Interest Level: Intermediate, Young Adult
Author: Blue Balliett
Publisher: Scholastic Press
In downtown Chicago there lives a poor but optimistic family, the Pearls, who love to read and always stick close to each other—Dash, the father; Sum, the mother; Early, the 11-year-old daughter; and Jubie, the 4-year-old son. Things seem to be looking up for them as Dash continues his career as a librarian and makes some money on the side by transferring old books, but one day, a mysterious tragedy strikes and Dash goes missing. When criminals come to their home and destroy it, Sum and her kids are forced to find refuge in a homeless shelter. The story continues with the Pearl family struggling to adjust to homeless life while Early embarks on a journey to uncover the mysteries surrounding Dash’s disappearance (which seems to be connected with diamond-smuggling) and bring the family back together.
Hold Fast is a fascinating read that allows the reader to view the world of homelessness straight through the eyes of the main characters. Even though the characters and storyline are fictional, the author has done extensive research in order to portray the homeless experience in a detailed and stunning way that will surely educate and touch the reader. Early, the protagonist, is portrayed as an intelligent, spunky, determined young girl who children would be able to relate to and look up to. The other characters are more weakly developed. The point of this book seemed to be to expose a social issue by wrapping it in mystery, rather than write a mystery novel with some social issues thrown into the mix. Therefore, mystery-lovers might be slightly disappointed, whereas realistic fiction fans who enjoy taking different perspectives will find this to be a captivating and moving book. There’s a lot of word play and references to poetry which the reader can get lost in, but the family’s love for literature, and the interesting format of the chapters (centered on certain words and their definitions), send a positive message about being passionate about learning. Overall, this is an excellent book with an interesting plot and a unique perspective into the lives of the homeless.