While most of the population hides behind ragged curtains and chipped concrete walls, one woman dares to venture out into the streets. As the leader of an after school care program at the local YMCA, she strives to teach the children of this embattled city that there is more to life than violence and hate.
The only thing she wants in return is someone, anyone, to call her by her real name.
Known only as “White Girl” to her neighbors, she wishes so much to be embraced by the community that she loves. Instead, though, she finds herself thrust into the middle of a war between two of the city’s most lethal gangs.
Armed only with her indefatigable optimism and the unexpected protection of a mysterious gang member known only as Slipknot, she must fight to ensure a better future for her city – and herself.
The closer she grows to a solution (and to Slipknot), the more she has to lose as the city becomes a war zone. Can she find a way to convince her community that Luthertown Heights is worth saving? Or is it useless to think that she could find love amongst the squalor? – Goodreads.com
The premise of this book is very timely and contains such an important message, with stories of violence and unrest in neighborhoods a major news topic far too often.
Annabelle’s love of her job, the neighborhood, and the children in her care is very apparent – it’s so admirable she wants to make a difference in their lives and provide a safe space for them to just be kids. She’s determined to prove she’s not the privileged ‘White Girl’ they believe her to be, and wants to be a permanent member of the community – even after she finds herself in some terrifying and heartbreaking situations.
When Slipknot makes his appearance, it’s obvious he’s more than a stereotypical ‘gangbanger’. He’s a closed book to Annabelle for quite a while, but when his tragic story is told, you just want to cuddle him like a puppy. Maybe the romance between him and Annabelle is somewhat sudden, but that doesn’t make it any less adorable and intense.
Although tenacious Annabelle comes up with a commendable and highly inventive plan to bring peace to Luthertown Heights, she faces numerous challenges and obstacles. The reader may have to suspend their disbelief a bit, while simultaneously wishing it was possible for more communities to take control back from gangs.
Love and Squalor contains some harsh situations and language (which is fitting for the situations), but also delivers a message of hope, love, and choices.
I received a digital copy of this book from the author.