The Shoveler is 16 years old and has moved 17 times. His mother has "trouble with money," so she buys cheap food and steals the expensive stuff, and digs through people's garbage for credit card and Social Security info. CanIHelpYou?'s family is affluent. But her best friend is one of the few black boys in her neighborhood and her parents have made it clear they're not okay with that. So CanIHelpYou? sells drugs to provide for herself, refusing to take money from those "nightmare racists." Loretta lives in a camper with her mother, her father--whom her mother occasionally kicks out but always lets back in--and a lunch box full of fleas she's training for a flea circus. Malcolm's father is dying from cancer. In between chemo treatments, father and son take trips to Negril. When in Pennsylvania, though, Malcolm stays with his grandparents, who make him uncomfortable with their bigotry and their wealth. The Freak's father "said tampons and pads were too expensive when she got her period, so she's used everything from a menstrual cup to random washcloths." The Freak now spends her time "flickering," traveling instantly between places, helping Malcolm dig up secrets and giving Loretta a new dress when her dad starts commenting on her legs.
As with many of A.S. King's (Still Life with Tornado) young adult novels, it takes time to get a handle on Dig. The perspective moves among the five teens; the connections grow clearer as the story unfolds. Though not an easy read, Dig is hopeful--the teens recognize how the racism and privilege of previous generations have shaped their lives and they work to be better. Brutally candid, Dig is well worth the intellectual and emotional investment. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness