Frank Bardessono’s Little Ravens refers to a group of teen-aged patients in the Los Alamos dorm of a residential institute for developmentally disabled young people in the fictional town of Santa Crisca, in Southern California. Los Alamos is the facility’s dorm reserved for the worst of the patients; some move on to less restrictive dorms, while others are destined for little else except entrance into the juvenile and criminal justice system. This novel is focused on that latter group, along with the staff at Los Alamos who give up so much to care for them.
Though it has a full cast of likable staff members and complicated teens, the plot eventually settles on one patient, and one counselor. Daren was introduced to readers in Bardessono’s previous novel, and readers who enjoyed that first book can pick up on Daren’s story here. He is now a counselor at Los Alamos, ministering his brand of spiritual enlightenment and patient professionalism on his charges. As lead counselor, his case load covers many of the patients, but the story here focuses on his relationship with Tara, a difficult Hispanic teen whose rebellious and antisocial behavior is constantly causing her to find herself on the verge of being transferred away from Los Alamos, into what will certainly be the criminal justice system. His efforts have their successes, along with their inevitable backslides. Readers familiar with Daren’s back story will see his mission in redeeming Tara as an attempt to find a bit of his own redemption.
Little Ravens is a careful, character-driven, and heart-breaking look at the system of social services that are on offer for abused, neglected, and at-risk teenagers. Bardessono’s talent seems to be in building characters and relationships that you care about – many of these teens will stay with you long after you’ve closed the last page. This is a look into the inner lives of the most troubled teens, and the psyche and motivation of those who spend their lives treating them.
|Page Count||326 pages|
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