Published on June 5, 2018
Nora Tucker is looking forward to summer vacation in Wolf Creek–two months of swimming, popsicles, and brushing up on her journalism skills for the school paper. But when two inmates break out of the town’s maximum security prison, everything changes. Doors are locked, helicopters fly over the woods, and police patrol the school grounds. Worst of all, everyone is on edge, and fear brings out the worst in some people Nora has known her whole life. Even if the inmates are caught, she worries that home might never feel the same.
Told in letters, poems, text messages, news stories, and comics–a series of documents Nora collects for the Wolf Creek Community Time Capsule Project–Breakout is a thrilling story that will leave readers thinking about who’s really welcome in the places we call home.
I’ve read several books lately that show racism and its pervasiveness in schools and communities. Breakout did an amazing job showing what might be called more subtle racism—things where you might at first dismiss the incident as not a big deal or the result of some oversensitivity. The storytelling peels back those layers of indifference and shows the harmful, ugly truth. Telling the story through Nora’s and Elidee’s letters, text messages, poetry, and recorded conversations created the feel of a candid view into the small community.
There are so many things I like about Breakout. Elidee’s poetry and her admiration for Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jacqueline Woodson. Lizzie’s parody news articles. The fact that we get Nora’s perspective as the prison superintendent’s daughter and Elidee’s as the sister of an inmate. I love that the book includes a reading list of other books on these topics, from books for young readers to texts more appropriate for teen readers.
While the social issues are a solid, important part of the story, at its core, this is a tale of three girls who learn what it is to be friends. To take chances, to trust one another, to forgive, to put themselves in the other girls’ shoes. This is a great read for all those reasons.
Nora and Lizzie are from a small, rural, mostly white town (except for the prison, where a majority of the prisoners are black.). Elidee is black and new to the town. Two inmates from the prison escape: one black, one white. The story shows instances of racism and prejudice—most are fairly subtle, like one store owner only enforcing a rule about backpacks being held on the counter when a black customer enters the store.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Nora, Lizzie, and Elidee and their families all help at a church volunteer event making a ham supper for the officers searching for the escaped inmates. They’re all part of the church community.
Teachers rush Nora and her friends inside a school building when officers announce that the escaped inmates are nearby. Accusations emerge stating that some officers physically harm prisoners. A young man is killed trying to evade police. (Nora and her friends don’t witness any of that.)