what i'm reading: the leak: great junior graphic for the young activist in your life

It starts with a trip to the dentist. Ruth Keller swears she brushes her teeth and flosses daily, yet the cavities are piling up. The dentist lectures, her mom scolds. No one believes that Ruth takes proper care of her teeth -- but she does. 

Then Ruth and a friend see workers dumping something into the lake. 

Ruth already writes an online newletter. She gets to work investigating, and repurposes her newsletter into an exposé. 

In The Leak, Kate Reed Petty and Andrea Bell have created an updated and more complex descendant of Harriet, from the classic Harriet the Spy. Ruth is the perfect young hero: smart, brave, misunderstood, flawed -- learning and growing.

Ruth dives headlong into her activism -- rashly, clumsily, and with great courage. Some adults oppose her and try to stop her. A couple of adults recognize her potential and offer guidance and support. Ruth is smart and resourceful and finds a way through, but not without a cost. As she exposes the truth about her town's poisoned water, many hard truths are exposed to her.

The story references the real-life story of the poisoned water in Flint, Michigan. There's an explanatory epilogue that would come off as unnecessary and didactic in an adult novel, but I appreciate it for younger readers. 

I would have loved this book as a child. In many ways, I was Ruth -- a writer, an activist, straddling the line between my nerdy preferences and my need to fit in. Ruth's journey would have been the perfect fantasy for me, but this book would have wide appeal for many young readers. 

I loved Kate Reed Petty's debut novel, True Story. On Petty's website I see she has written another junior graphic, which I will now look for. I'm looking forward to whatever she writes next.

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