Niko’s eyes flashed to our faces, one by one.
“Josie’s alive!” he repeated. “She’s being held against her will in Missouri!”
We all boggled at the newspaper he was holding out. It was Josie. He was right.
“I’m going to get her. Who’s coming with me?”
I didn’t know what to say. I’m sure my mouth was gaping open like a beached fish.
“Let us see the thing, Niko. Are you sure?” Jake said. Ever the politician, he stepped forward and took the paper from Niko.
“Is it really Josie? Are you sure?” Caroline asked. All the kids swarmed to Jake.
“Hold on, hold on. Let me set it down.”
Jake put the paper down on the bedsheet that Mrs. McKinley had laid down as a picnic blanket. We were out on the green, celebrating the twins’ sixth birthday.
“It’s Josie! It’s Josie, it really is!” Max crowed. “I thought for sure she got blowed up!”
“Careful with the paper!” Niko said. The kids were pushing and jostling for a better look. Luna, our fluffy white mascot, was up in Chloe’s arms, yipping and licking anyone’s face she could reach. She was just as excited as the rest of us.
“Somebody read it out loud, already!” Chloe complained.
“Now, Chloe. How would you ask in a polite way?” Mrs. McKinley reprimanded her.
“Somebody read it out loud already, PLEASE!”
Good luck, Mrs. McKinley.
Mrs. McKinley started to read the article. It said that the conditions at the type O containment camp were negligent and prisoners were being abused. It said that there was limited medical aid reaching the refugees inside. It said that if Booker hadn’t given the power to govern these containment camps to individual states, none of this would have happened.
But I was just watching Niko.
He was bouncing on the soles of his feet.
Action. That’s what he’d been missing, I realized.
Niko was a kid who thrived on structure and being productive. Here at the Quilchena luxury golf club turned refugee containment camp, there was plenty of structure, but almost nothing to do besides watch the twenty-four-hour cycle of depressing news from around the country and wait in lines.
Niko’d been wasting away—consumed with grief and guilt about losing Josie on the road from Monument to the Denver International Airport evacuation site. And he’d been starving for something to do.
And now he thought he was going to rescue Josie.
Which, of course, was completely absurd.
Niko started to pace as Mrs. McKinley finished the article.
The kids had a lot of questions. Where is Missouri? Why is Josie being hit by that guard? Can they see her soon? Can they see her today?
But Niko cut through the chatter with a question of his own.
“Do you think Captain McKinley can get us to her?” he asked Mrs. M. “I mean, if he got permission, he could fly us, right?”
“I think if we go through proper channels, we should be able to get her transferred here. I mean, obviously you children cannot go down there and get her yourselves,” Mrs. McKinley said.
I shared a look with Alex—she didn’t know Niko.
He’d already packed a backpack in his mind.
He turned to me.
“I think if yo
"Gritty and violent, this is a tale of endurance and tenderness, with a group of teens who will do whatever it takes to protect the people they love." - The Horn Book
"... A dizzying alternating-perspective climax." - Booklist