Cashay: Lynn Rutan

McMullan departs from her usual genre of historical fiction in this street-lit title–set in what’s left of Chicago’s Cabrini Green projects–which achieves gripping authenticity without profanity. Fourteen-year-old Cashay and her younger sister, Sashay, have always been extremely close, but their bond breaks tragically when Sashay is killed in a neighborhood shooting. In the weeks that follow, Cashay’s mother descends into drug addiction, and Cashay is overwhelmed by grief and fury, prompting her counselor to send her to an after-school program, where she is paired with Allison, a volunteer mentor. Allison’s genuine concern gradually helps Cashay begin to heal and imagine a life beyond the projects. The understated style and strong first-person voice highlight Cashay’s distinctive character. An economic metaphor, both timely and unique, works nicely with Cashay’s growing trust that she can remain connected to her sister through memory. After an exciting climax, the book ends abruptly but with a heartening sense of optimism. This slim book packs an emotional punch and is sure to win new fans to the genre.