I read a really strange book yesterday. Finding Katie by Beatrice Sparks is supposedly a diary of an anonomous teenager’s journey through the foster care system. I say “supposedly” because from reading her other books, that are also said to be diaries I find it interesting that almost everyone has the same writing voice and style. I also read an article several years ago thatvarifies my suspicion that perhaps MS. Sparks is writing all these books herself.
Anyway, this book is the weirdest thing. It starts out with Katie living in this really awesome house with her wealthy but extremely troubled parents, and cook, van driver, ETC. They have their own pool and tenis court and everything. She talks about how she often overhears arguments between her parents and her father sometimes physically abuses their mother. It comes out later in the book that both of them have drug and drinking problems. The father has a pattern of relating to Katie that envolves gift giving, compliments, and behavior that at first just borders on the sexually inapropriate and then gets far worse, to pushing her away being distant and wanting nothing to do with her. This often leaves her feeling confused and hurt, and doubting that the disturbing incidents even happened. The mother, for her part, is almost totally absent, drugged out in her bedroom.
The book takes a strange and totally unexpected turn, after Katie comes home from having sneaked out to go to a boy’s party. Her father tells her to put some clothes on and come outside because he wants to talk to her. In the middle of the night? He gives her some “candy” that she loves. Next time we hear from her she’s been dumped off in the ghetos of Los angelios, her father having called her a whore and other horrible names and just left her there. Katie suspects that the “candy” he gave her might have actually been drugs.
She is picked up by a kind soul from the salvation army, and from there transported to her first foster home. Oddly enough no social workers were involved. Through the rest of the book she is shuffled from one horrible home to the next. In each home she tries to remain relentlessly upbeat, taking the role of mother and super fixer of these children. She makes it her mission to educate them and “bring out the best” in them. All good intentions, it just seemed that throughout the book she had this attitude like she was above them or something because of her wealthy background. The emphasis in this book seems to be how horrible foster homes are, with lots of examples both that Katie witnesses, and that she hears about from other kids, of how abusive things are there. I’m sure many homes are like this, however, I would worry about anyone in care, or going into care reading this book. It might just traumatize them.
It’s odd to me that throughout the book the foster parents and teachers at school treat Katie as kind of an equal to them. For example, a teacher at one of the schools Katie went to admitted once that she “couldn’t teach” without Katie. If she can’t teach without a fourteen year old’s help I think she needs to not be teaching! It’s like Katie was treated like another adult, rather than a child. It’s good that the adults around her were working with her strengths such as her wanting so much to help others and share what she knows. Hoever, I think they all lost sight until the very end of the book, of the fact that she’s also just like the other kids in that she’s been abused and may need help. Throughout the time she is in care, she struggles to forget her past. I kept reading at times, just waiting for her to get a therapist, or go to a support group for foster kids or something! It never happened, sadly.
I won’t give away the ending, in case someone actually wants to read this book. But let me just say it’s as weird as the rest of it. Random and doesn’t make sense. Too abrupt and “happy” with no resolution or even a clue as to how Katie gets help for her past trauma. Again, I would worry about those in the system reading this. It makes it look like the kids are just on their own with really no help from social workers, counselors or anyone, and then one day they’re just magically adopted by the “perfect” family. Ooops, I gave it away! Oh well. Also, I find it odd that the original parents, the wealthy crazy ones from the beginning of the book, are never heard from again. I know this is unrealistic as in social services every attempt is made to reunite a child with their family.
All and all, I wouldn’t recommend this book, unless you want to read something really random. I know there are better books on this subject out there.