When seventh grader Nora Tucker’s school announces this year’s summer homework—a contribution to a town-wide time capsule—she doubts anything worth writing about will happen. Wolf Creek may be home to a secure correctional facility, but the most interesting things which happen are cookouts and carnivals.
But when two prisoners break out of the Wolf Creek Correctional Facility, Nora’s life becomes much more tense. Suddenly, her mom doesn’t let her go outside, police are pouring into town, and her little brother has her check for inmates under his bed.
She also meets Elidee Jones, an African American girl from New York City whose brother is in the prison. And as the search continues and tension runs higher, Nora begins to realize that no matter how welcoming Wolf Creek believes itself to be, it’s still prejudiced—both inside the correctional facility and out.
Breakout was an unusual book which confronted issues of criminal justice and racial prejudice in a way which felt completely natural and was very well done. Kate Messner narrated it in a series of documents submitted by Nora to the time capsule project, mainly by Nora, her best friend Lizzie, and Elidee. This gave the book an unusual feel and depth, and uniqueness, too—there are few books effectively told completely in documents! But instead of becoming dry, it was a really engaging format.
This book was recommended to me, and if it hadn’t been, I don’t know if I would have read it; however, I’m glad it was. Breakout was an interesting book which covered a lot of issues which I don’t often see in middle-grade books. For anyone who remotely likes realistic fiction, this is a book which is good to read. I would highly recommend Breakout to readers ages ten and up.
Note: Check out our interview with Breakout's author, Kate Messner!