Eleven-year-old Sally O’Malley and her younger sister, Troo, are as close as two sisters can be, their lives knit together by the tragic circumstances of their father’s sudden death in an automobile accident. Both girls are coping with the trauma in different ways – Sally by hiding out, and Troo by acting out. Troo’s sudden moves towards becoming a neighborhood “bad girl” concern Sally greatly, as she made a promise to her father to always watch out for her younger sister – a promise that she takes very seriously. There are plenty of dangers lurking around the neighborhood for Sally and Troo, including a cat burglar stealing items from neighbors’ homes, a former nemesis who has reportedly escaped from reform school, and a priest who isn’t who he appears to be.
What seems to be a nostalgic look at the summer of 1960 through rose-colored Baby Boomer glasses quickly turns into a glimpse at the dark side of any neighborhood during any era. Sally and Troo’s world is populated with molesters, murderers, mean girls, bullies, and the occasional best friend or adult ally. Kagen captures the naïve worldview of an eleven-year-old girl effectively, although Sally’s occasional cluelessness about what’s really going on around her can be cloying at times. Nevertheless, the O’Malley sisters are entertaining young heroines, and their continuing adventures will remind many readers of their own childhoods.