Lauren is mad at her parents who sent her beloved brother to a boarding school for autistic students because she believes she could help Ryan out more at home. She's also starting to feel estranged from her best friend who doesn't seem to get how upset Lauren is. To top it off, one of the tenets of her Quaker school is simplicity and Lauren is suddenly aware of how much money her parents and friends throw around without a second thought. When Sierra moves in next door she and Lauren become fast friends. Sierra is living with Lauren's neighbors because he own mother is an alcoholic who has been arrested and is trying to get sober. Sierra is used to being a caretaker so when Lauren comes to her with a Robin Hood-like plan to raise money to help autistic kids, Sierra agrees to help. But Lauren's behavior continues to grow and soon has Sierra worried and trying to keep their situation under control.
Every Shiny Thing is told in an alternating point of view format. Lauren's chapters are narratives while Sierra's are free verse which makes the book read fairly fast. I also read through it quickly because I was caught up in the story. Both girls are good characters even though Lauren is quite flawed. Even when she believes she is doing good, she isn't. She is coming from a privileged life and is completely blind to her privilege when it comes to what she says and how she justifies her actions. She's also a self-righteous teen who believes she sees things more clearly than others. Just like all of us did when we were teens who couldn't believe how stupid everyone else in the world was or why we were the only people who felt so deeply. But despite her many flaws, it is easy to feel for Lauren and to see why she is slipping down the slope into true kleptomania.
While both girls are well drawn, Sierra's story is the one that really resonated with me. Sierra is the perfect depiction of an enabler and caretaker for people with addictions. And yet she is not labeled as such - we're just shown that life. I could feel her unease grow throughout the book while she tried to keep the peace with everyone. I know that one or both of these authors must be an Adult Child of an Alcoholic to capture that thought process so expertly and the huge, but quiet, toll it takes on a child.
There are many themes to think about in this book and I would like to hand it to my students who need it. But I believe it will also appeal to those who are just looking for a good story of friendship and bad choices.