Sweetgirl by Travis Mulhauser is a story about two girls who save each other. One a teenager and one a baby. Percy James is a 16 year old girl who lives with her drug addict mother, Carletta. For most of her life, Percy has had to be the adult in the house, considering her mother’s ups and downs with drug addiction, particularly meth. When her mother goes missing, Percy sets off to find her, worrying about her safety in a snowstorm. And she knows exactly where to find her – at Sheldon Potter’s farmhouse.
Sheldon is the local drug dealer, where Carletta gets her latest fix from and no doubt is passed out cold, but when Percy arrives at his farmhouse, Carletta is not what she finds there. Instead she finds Sheldon and his girlfriend passed out from drug use, as well as a dead, decaying dog. She also finds Jenna, a small baby girl crying in one of the rooms, cradled in her baby bed right under an open window, surely left to freeze to death. She decides to take the child and bring her to safety.
Her first port of call is her mother’s ex-boyfriend, Portis, who she asks for help. Together the two of them fled off to find help for the baby who seems to have an infection and getting feverish by the minute. However, Sheldon awakes and finds baby Jenna missing. Of course, he assembles all his resources to find the baby, fearing his girlfriend’s reaction when she finds out her child is missing.
Of course, Portis foresee that Sheldon would have his allies hunt him down for the child and took Percy and Jenna away to hide while the snow storm is happening until its safe to go out and find help. And yes, Sheldon’s people are out hunting down Portis (and whoever they suspect abducted the child).
The story then revolves around Portis and Percy’s attempt to escape Sheldon’s people, which results in a few deaths and a shooting, because Sheldon’s allies aren’t adverse to violence. The longer they take to get Jenna help, the sicker she becomes. My heart was sore for the suffering the child had to endure, apart from being sick, she almost didn’t make it alive to the hospital thanks to Percy’s mother.
This no doubt was not an easy story to read. Jenna is a small baby that has to go through so much in her short life (her suffering are explicitly described in the novel). There is also Percy who, for a girl her age, have had too much responsibility which she had to be accountable for. I had sympathy for Percy, but I saw her grow as a person as she sets off on her journey with Jenna. Her courage for going through these dangerous situations and placing her own safety in jeopardy to save Jenna was admiring. She also grew so fond of the child that it was emotional trauma for her to let go of Jenna in the end, which of course she felt was best.
I didn’t particularly like the homophobic and racist male characters in the story. This story really makes you feel, sympathy for the children and of course anger at the adults. This novel paints a real and horrifying picture of the consequences drugs and addiction has on children, family and those near to you. Having said that, I didn’t enjoy the story as much as I thought I would when I started the novel, but at only 250 pages, this is sure a quick read if you’re not in the mood for a ‘light’ read. This is definitely one to pick up for having all the feels.
Disclaimer: I received this book from Jonathan Ball Publishers for review consideration