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Reviewed by Pikasho Deka for Readers' Favorite
Saving Lonesome Carsten is a slice-of-life drama novel by Emily Stalder Johnson. After recently moving with her family to her new home, junior high schooler Kacey Harlow finds a kindred spirit when she meets Carsten Hayes, a shy kid who instantly opens up to Kacey. However, a couple of months later, Kacey notices Carsten seemed to be more withdrawn than ever. Kacey suspects Carsten to be having some issues at home. When she questions him about it, Carsten sounds defensive. She shares her suspicions with her parents, but they seem oblivious to Carsten's troubles at home. Meanwhile, a fall down the stairs leaves Carsten with a broken wrist. Kacey realizes that she may have to take drastic measures to free him from his abusive family.
A heartbreaking story about friendship, child neglect, and physical abuse, Saving Lonesome Carsten is emotional and, at times, even tragic, yet surprisingly poignant and full of warmth. Author Emily Stalder Johnson sheds light on the sensitive topic of child neglect and abuse and handles it with a sense of nuance, depth, and authenticity that makes the narrative all the more powerful and hard-hitting. The characters are two seventh-grade kids whose friendship lies at the center of the story. Kacey and Carsten are well-developed and likable personalities that you can't help rooting for. I thoroughly enjoyed their dynamic. The fact that Kacey goes out of her way to make sure of Carsten's safety speaks volumes about the strength of their friendship. Saving Lonesome Carsten is an enthralling slice-of-life drama that I recommend very highly.