Patricia Cumbie's writing has been published in many literary journals, and she was nominated for inclusion in the Best New American Voices anthology. She is the recipient of a Minnesota State Arts Board grant and was a finalist for the Rona Jaffe Award. Where People Like Us Live is her first novel. She lives in Minnesota.
Gr 9 Up-Libby is used to moving from state to state following her father's downward spiral of temporary employment. Rubberville contains the usual factories, discouraged neighbors, and hardscrabble life. But this time Libby makes a best friend right away. Angie-brassy and seemingly fearless-looks a lot older than Libby, although they will both be high school freshmen in the fall. There's a lot about Angie to disturb readers, such as the way she forces Libby to stand too close to an oncoming train, but Libby is smitten with her. She does pick up on the creep factor in Angie's stepfather, who is both menacing and flirtatious. When she stumbles on them having oral sex, she is thrown off-kilter. Should she keep silent to protect her friend, which is what Angie asks her to do, or tell and get help? The best-friend-of-the-abused trope has become a fixture of YA literature. What makes this book stand out is not literary quality but the gritty and honest exploration of Libby's confusion about sexuality, coercion, friendship, and power. Honest, too, is the portrayal of Angie, a girl who has had to develop extreme defenses to survive and who is so in need of love that she can't distinguish between nurture and exploitation. Angie is no pitiful victim, thankfully, but rather a tough, damaged girl who has learned to survive. The struggles and warmth in Libby's own family provide a contrasting sense of normalcy.-Carolyn Lehman, Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.