I was disappointed with this book. I read the review in the paper and was interested not only by the subject matter (children being moved around due to abusive/disinterested parents) but also by the fact that some of the setting is in Utah.
As outlandish as the abuse was, sadly, I know there are parents like the ones depicted in this youth fiction. What irritated me was that too many of the incidental male characters were perverted. I didn't think that was necessary. It makes it look like the world is full of perverts. Also, the abusive dad seemed to drop out of the story about two thirds of the way through. That didn't make sense to me especially because he was so persistent with his relationship with his girls, even after being so abusive and neglectful. Just because he was down and out didn't seem a good enough reason for him to disappear.
The ugly characters in the book were well defined by action and dialogue. Tammy's boyfriend was one of the most obnoxious. So self absorbed. But I would have liked to know more about some of the good characters like Tammy and why she didn't have children. Or Deborah who may be a bit extreme but clearly has a good heart.
But my main complaint about Hand Me Down is the writing style. The author attempts to go back and forth between the present and past, but the way she does it is confusing. I generally don't mind books written in that style (The Book Thief comes to mind.), but the way this author handled it didn't work for me.
Normally I stop reading a book that I am not enjoying, however, I stuck with it because I was curious to see what direction the author would take. Would the girls find stability? Would someone finally stand up for them? Would they stand up for themselves? Would it end neatly with a bow wrapped around it or messy with a bad outcome?
My final comment is for parents of children who read youth fiction. I do not believe in censorship, but books like Hand Me Down are a good reminder that parents need to be diligent about what their children are reading. I would highly encourage parents to read what their children are reading (I call it parallel reading) so that you can have intelligent discourse about story content. This one brings up many issues like physical abuse, sexual abuse, abandonment, alcoholism, teen drug use, religion, teen sexual activity, etc. All great topics but ones you might want to provide guidance to your child if they choose to read books with such content. It brings to mind me reading Judy Blume books "back in the day." I ate them up because they were filled with all kinds of sex, drugs, drinking, and other inappropriateness. I could have used the guidance back then. My mom was clueless as to the contents, and it was my dirty little secret! These books are great springboards for discussion on real topics and ones that SHOULD be discussed with teens as they are forming their sense of self, their views, ethics, and morals.