The Book of Fred -- Abby Bardi

This was a strange one. 

Up until very recently, most of the life that Mary Fred Anderson has known is has been on the Compound with her Mama and Papa and the Littles--Fred, Little Freddie, Rickie and Boo.  She's never watched television, never gone to a supermarket, never read much of anything other than The Book of Fred.

When the unthinkable happens--her parents are arrested for negligence after Little Freddie dies and Mary Fred is separated from the remaining Littles and sent to live with a Lacker family--she isn't all that worried:

This county was not a Frederick, but that didn't surprise me.  I was ready to spend some time with Lackers.  It had happened once before, when I was small.  We got taken into custody because Papa was brought in for illegal possession of firearms, and it took a few weeks for us to get home to Mama.  That was in Tennessee, before the Compound was located.  We always say it was located, not found, because as far as we're concerned, the Compound was always there, we just didn't happen to be there with it.

I had been to school with Lackers, back at the Compound, and I didn't mind them.  They left us alone and we left them alone, and most of the time we got along just fine.  Every so often one of them would beat up one of my brothers, or one of my brothers would beat up one of them--usually for saying something about our clothes.  We always had to wear something brown, since brown is the color of prophecy, and sometimes people said mean things about that.  But most of the time even the Lackers knew that the Big Cat was coming, and coming soon, and they seemed to want to stay on our good side just in case we turned out to be right about everything else.

More than anything else, I think, this book is about culture shock.  It's written from four perspectives--Mary Fred and the three people who take her in.  The first section is from Mary Fred's perspective, so the beliefs of the Fredians only slowly take form--since she obviously knows what all of the lingo means, she doesn't explain it.  She refuses to acknowledge how devastated she is even to herself, so when she finally has a meltdown, it's as surprising to her as it is to the Cullisons.  And as relieving, I think.

Up until the very end, it was great.  The separate perspectives really worked--each character is an individual and their storytelling styles differ accordingly.  But then it kind of devolved into a huge action sequence involving a car crash that made the Cullison family realize how much they've grown to love Mary Fred and a Waco-like stand-off that results in Mary Fred making her final decision about where and how she wants to live her life.  Which didn't jive with the rest of the book, even though it was slightly plausible.  Well, one catastrophe would have been slightly plausible.  Two was just silly.