Lila and Hadley

Scholastic. Apr. 2020. 256p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781338306095.
Gr 3-7–Growing up is difficult for most kids, but when you add in a single parent who is suddenly put in jail, having to move in with an older sister who you haven’t seen in years and a degenerative eye disease that is slowly making you blind, things can seem even more impossible. Keplinger’s novel handles all of these subjects without becoming overwhelming to the reader. Hadley’s life seems like it’s going as well as it possibly can when everything is turned upside down: Her mom is taken to jail for stealing money from her job, Hadley’s degenerative eye disease is progressing faster than the doctors expected, and now she has to move hours away from her best friends to live with her sister. Through first-person narrative, Hadley reveals why she feels so angry and alone even when she is surrounded by others. After walking around the dog rescue where her sister works, she ends up befriending a dog named Lila, who will not respond to anyone but Hadley. The girl reluctantly ends up teaching Lila different commands while making a deal with the dog that if she responds to training, Hadley will attend mobility classes to learn how to navigate her gradually failing eyesight. Keplinger creates a story about growth focusing on the experiences of Lila and Hadley where each of them starts to come out of their shells and accept their surroundings.
VERDICT A unique title that touches on experiences not covered in many middle grade books (going blind, mobility training, and dog training), with relatable and engaging characters. For fans of Wendy Mass’s A Mango-Shaped Space and Andy Behrens’s The Fast and the Furriest.

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