By Kim Flowers, $14.50; Queerteen Press; 228 pages
A gripping story that pulls no punches for young teens and preteens who might be considering running away, No Turning Back is also an eye-opener for adults who know young runaways or teens contemplating striking out on their own. While freedom from whatever lies behind is a strong incentive to run away, the grimness of reality on the run comes through in this, Flowers' first book. The themes dealt with include parental abuse, family loyalty, trust, responsibility and accountability, as well as a budding lesbian romance.
The story centers around the escapades of Ash, Dayna and Kevin, whose runaway adventures take place in cornfields, pastures, tree growths and small towns somewhere in the Midwest. Ash is the leader. At 13, her parents dead, she is determined to join forces with her brother Matt (10), who was placed in a separate foster home in a town at some distance from her. Ash leaves her foster home replete with the travel survival supplies she needs. She knows what to carry because she has made this journey before, only to be caught and placed in juvenile detention. Now wise in the ways of evading capture, she sets out with a timetable in mind.
Not too far along, she encounters Dayna (11) and her brother, Kevin (8), who have abusive parents. Shocked at how they're treated, Ash invites them to accompany her on her journey. They all band together to reach Matt and reunite the siblings.
The action picks up halfway into the book. Ash has bitten off a pretty big chunk of responsibility promising her young charges she will find them a better life. Eventually, lack of food and approaching winter forces Ash to reconsider what is best for all of them.
Matt's story runs parallel to his sister's. Flowers skillfully interweaves the two. Matt has his own coterie of friendsboys living under the charge of Auntie Helen, who is warm and loving, but not family. One of the more appealing aspects of this novel is the developing attraction between Ash and Dayna.
Flowers first began writing No Turning Back at age 11. Her second book, The Divide: Uprising, is scheduled for publication early in 2013. She lives with her wife and son in Indiana.