About Phoenix by Nastasia Rugani ($12.95, Annick Press) might just be about adult fails.

One could say the first fail was by Phoenix and her sister Sasha’s adored father, who mysteriously vanished one day and left them in the care of their distant mother, who becomes even less of a mother once her husband leaves. I would argue the mother failed first, by not being a mother in the first place and becoming less of one when her children needed her the most.

But the failures don’t stop there.

One day the girls get stranded in the woods on the way home. A car stops and out comes Mr. Smith, Phoenix’s English teacher who gives them a lift home. Mr. Smith quickly romances Erica, the girls’ mother, and only Phoenix seems to see the man’s controlling and unpredictable side. Mr. Smith moves in fairly quickly, yet the mother still takes off for weeks at a time, leaving the girls in the care of someone who, Phoenix quickly learns, is more than he seems.

There are other fails – teachers, friends, friends of friends who don’t seem to see the change in Phoenix, and seem easily convinced by her explanations.

About Phoenix was an excellent, easy-to-read, fast-paced book, but so sad. It is heartbreaking to think of other children out there who are facing similar situations, and feel there is no one there to help.

Note: This book was provided by Annick Press for a honest review.

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