Sunday, June 27, 2010

Review: Stranded by J.T. Dutton


Who abandoned Baby Grace?

A farmer’s discovery in his cornfield thrusts a small farm town into a raging media frenzy—and Kelly Louise into a new home. Who knew a person could feel so completely stranded somewhere with national news coverage?

How is Kelly Louise supposed to shed her virginal status when the baby in the cornfield shadows her every hair flip, every wink? And the one boy around who rates anywhere near acceptable on the Maximum Man Scale only has eyes for her cousin, Natalie (who only has eyes for Jesus).

But Natalie has a secret. Everyone is so busy burying the truth about Baby Grace, they can’t see who they’re burying alive.

Welcome to Heaven, Iowa.


Definable, sprightly characters, a blend of serious and humorous, and a strong setting are the most notable aspects of Stranded. The drastic changes Kelly Louise is suddenly pushed into provide a driving force for both the plot and development with her own character, and the overall way things play out runs smoothly. A great YA voice that brings life to Kelly Louise while still being something likable for a range of readers also embolden this book.

Kelly Louise is as unique as her name, a city girl pushed into a country setting with a very strict, religious grandmother and cousin. Her love and obsession with boys provides a great contrast to Natalie’s uptight ways and the trouble she often finds herself in comes off primarily as comical because of the situation. Given the heavily religious nature of her grandma and cousin, as well as the constant Christian tones of the town, Kelly Louise's determination to lose her virginity adds another bit of flare to the story overall. The reason she ends up moving to Heaven comes out pretty early on and is one more thing she has to deal with. Her views on the situation bring out her character strongly, as do her interactions with her peers. There is a noticeable difference between her and her peers as she finds herself in uncomfortable situations and dealing with an unexpected inability to fit in and find friends.

Natalie is an interesting character, a girl with a woman’s body but lacking such a mature mindset. After finding herself in a bad situation, she tries to set things right and move forward. Her battles against Kelly Louise provide tension as well as humor, competition bred both of out the situation and being the same age but having very different childhoods. Natalie’s background comes up often, also helping lend her an overall public persona of being a good girl who can do no wrong. Kelly Louise feels the friction from this, and given that she is the narrator, there is a certain bias and dislike towards Natalie as a result that helps build the overall tone and plot.

Kenny is the boy who lives next to Kelly Louise’s grandma, the son of a drunk and the boy everyone assumes will end up in jail. A trouble maker, a loner, and often getting high, Kenny butts heads with Kelly Louise while also providing some sort of camaraderie and friendship towards her. As their relationship starts to grow, becoming something more than bickering school mates but still not entirely what Kelly Louise would really want, another element and source of tension is added overall to the story. Despite the way he comes off, Kelly Louise finds a different side of Kenny and he provides a source of mixed feelings for the reader.

Though the abandoned baby incident happens before Kelly Louise and her mother move into Heaven, it is still constantly brought up throughout the town. The circumstances behind it do become known and as Kelly Louise struggles to understand and reconcile, so does the reader. Dutton has pitched numerous questions into this book, handling it all masterfully and smoothly with both a gentle hand and humor. There is tremendous character growth for Kelly Louise as the story progresses, both in the way she views the world and those directly around her but also in her maturity level and mental setting.

As the plot progresses, and the investigation and truth regarding baby Grace comes out, the overall situation and turmoil builds. With plenty of high school type incidents to keep the teenage tone, Dutton creates a strong mix between high school and life. Things finally build to a surprising climax, driven primarily by Kelly Louise and rendering this a big story in character growth and development.

Dutton’s writing is strong and refreshing, giving a strong light to Kelly Louise and bringing both this character and those around her as well as the setting to life. Kenny, Kelly Louise’s mother, grandmother, Natalie and Kenny all are strongly built characters, coming through memorably and boldly. The relationship between Kelly Louise and her mother is a close one, having a blend of mother/daughter and friends, even when the situations become stressed. Stranded is a powerful read despite the rampant comedic relief and is the story of a quirky teenage girl who suddenly finds herself in an uncomfortable situation and dealing with things possibly above her head.

Source: Finished hardbound copy received from author free of charge for review
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: HarperTeen; 1 edition (June 8, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0061370827
ISBN-13: 978-0061370823

Author's Website


  1. Wow. This sounds like something I would really enjoy! Thanks for the (FABBB!) review and for pointing this book out. <3

  2. An amazing review. This sounds like a really fantastic story. Thanks for sharing your thoughts

  3. Loved the interview. I think it's so interesting how the story was changed during the writing process. I know that was probably really difficult to do. BUT that's why Holly is so great :)

  4. This sounds like it'd be a really good read! Great review Kari! I know it's now on my to read list. :)