For almost ten years, Ana Cortez had been at the mercy of the foster care system. In and out of homes, mostly in East LA, she is now at a crossroads. Next stop: a group home. Unless her social worker, Lupe Saucedo, can come up with a creative solution.
As she meets with Ms. Saucedo, Ana learns that, indeed, a new possibility is available to her. She can be placed in Northern California, in redwood country, where she can intern on a farm for the summer. And perhaps longer. The ultimate goal: emancipation.
From the first moments after her arrival in Hadley and to the home of Emmett Garber and his sister Abbie, Ana feels on trial. Every word, every glance, every misunderstanding…they all point to failure, even though she is trying hard. But nobody seems to give her a chance, especially Emmett Garber, who has his own issues and little understanding of Ana’s.
Abbie is impressed by Ana’s creativity, however, and the efforts she has made to do what is required. Small mistakes make it harder, but there are a few moments of connection developing between them.
Naturally, there is a boy, Cole Brannan, who is drawn to Ana, and she to him. But his parents have issues with the Garbers, making Cole a forbidden love. And the attraction between them evokes all of Abbie’s worst memories about her own past errors in judgment.
How do the past mistakes of all the characters play into the events of that summer and fall? Why are so many people unable to give Ana the benefit of the doubt? And, finally, what frightening event will change how everyone sees her? Will Ana finally achieve her dreams of belonging?
Throughout Ana of California, I felt myself rooting for Ana, wishing that I could somehow make others understand her and give her the chance she so sorely needs. She was an appealing character, and I could understand why she connected to the girl named Rye Moon. But I found Rye unlikeable.
Rye, with her somewhat Bohemian style, resonated with Ana. But she seemed to create situations that would evolve into trouble. Lashing out seemed to be Rye’s MO, and this behavior made it hard for this reader to connect to her.
Small town life might have appeared to be a good idea for Ana, but the smallness of the town contributed to many of the problems, too, with residents jumping to conclusions, reacting out of their own preconceptions about Ana and her life. Misunderstandings and miscommunication ran rampant. In the end, this mix added to my fascination with the story, and with my inability to put this book down. 4.5 stars.
**I received this e-ARC from the publisher via NetGalley.