In Plain Sight
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Mystery, Hi-Lo
Megan Caliente has spent her entire life sticking up for the underdog and helping people out. She’s had to—in her fifteen years she’s discovered that it’s the easiest way to make friends in a new school. There have been many new schools, too, all over the country. Megan’s mother, Rochelle, in on a journey to paint each state, after all.
Or is it really?
After an incident at a protest Megan organized, she discovers that her entire life has been a lie. Her mother’s name isn’t Rochelle; it’s Alice, and she’s been on the run from the federal government since Megan was born. Megan’s father was a terrorist responsible for the deaths of over two hundred innocent people. Faced with this knowledge and the scorn of those she considered friends, Megan now must determine for herself if she will be another victim of her father’s legacy.
I really liked this! I mean, it’s always a roulette with hi-lo books, since the writing can be either brilliant or mediocre fairly easily. It’s the difference between My First Board Book and The Old Man and the Sea—simple vs. style. With In Plain Sight, though, Langston’s simplicity emphasizes the struggles going on in Megan’s head. The reader watches her trying to come to grips with her heritage, unsure whether her own political leanings are inherited, and if she’ll one day turn from chants and marches to bombs. It would have been easy for Langston to just repeat the same sentiments throughout, but each time Megan confronts her fears, it’s from a different angle and with a bit more background knowledge. Seeing her grow in such a short span impresses the writer in me.
I liked the timely nature of the story, as well. We live in a world where domestic terror attacks are becoming more common, unfortunately, and hardly a month passes by without some new name or event being plastered all over the news. However, the perpetrators of these crimes rarely exist in utter isolation; they have families, too. Even “regular” criminals do. In Plain Sight raises questions about just treatment towards the children of convicted felons and the bullying they face when people find out about a past those children might not even have been a part of. Megan was a baby when her father bombed the stadium, and she’s been raised by her mother. She had literally nothing to do with her father’s crime. The kids at her school, though, treat her like a pariah. It’s maddening…
And completely realistic. I’ve seen it myself, back when I was growing up. Someone’s parent or older sibling does “something wrong,” and suddenly the entire family is ostracized. Teachers would treat the younger siblings with a wary eye, even though they were perfectly innocent. With Megan, her father did something unforgivable, but she, like my acquaintances, has the burden of guilt thrown at her by her peers.
I was sympathetic to the mother, as well. Rochelle/Alice (her real name) was stuck in a perfectly realistic, completely horrible situation. She had a baby with a man who proved to be abusive, and she was young and naïve enough to believe she could change him. By the time she realized she couldn’t, she was being called to testify against him. Rather than risk her life and the life of her baby (either to Child Protective Services or a hit man), she tried to disappear. It is, like Megan says at one point, like something she’d see on TV. The way Langston writes the situation, though, is far more “true crime” than “law show.” She gets right to the heart of the issues and doesn’t try to sugarcoat her solutions. A book like this could easily become saccharine and didactic, but In Plain Sight manages to avoid that fate. That was probably my favorite aspect, actually, and the one thing that kept me turning the pages: I could actually see this all happening in real life, not just for the plot of a book.
I only have one question, one issue that bugged me. Why for the love of all that’s holy didn’t the mom do something to change her appearance? She could’ve let her hair grow super-long and dyed it a rainbow of colors. She could’ve gotten a perm or shaved her head and tattooed some eyebrows on. She could’ve gotten a nose job. I mean, if you’re going to hide from the police, wouldn’t you actually alter the way you look so you wouldn’t be recognized as easily? Especially early on, when your picture’s all over the news…
But if that’s my biggest problem with the book, then I guess that means it’s a winner!
A timely book that raises some important questions about fairness, justice, and nature vs. nurture, In Plain Sight is a must for struggling readers.
- Classroom discussion
- Fans of true crime
- Anyone who likes books that play out like TV dramas
- Bullying: characters bully others and talk behind their backs
- Death: many references to death
- Deceit: characters trick one another
- Lying: characters lie to one another
- Man-made Disaster: references to a terrorist bombing
- Other Illegal Activity: characters arrested during protest for violating traffic laws
- Physical Abuse: references to physical abuse
- Prejudice: characters shout prejudiced language
- Shaming: characters try to shame others
- Swearing: characters swear
- War: references to drone use in warfare
- Growing Up
- Overcoming Adversity
- Right vs. Wrong
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