A Small Free Kiss in the Dark, by Glenda Millard

Title: A Small Free Kiss in the Dark

Author: Glenda Millard

For ages: 12 years +

Type: Young Adult Fiction

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Publication Date: February 2009

Noticing a headline about ‘urban tribes’ on a newspaper, Glenda Millard began thinking about the main character for this story and wondered how life would be for a young homeless boy, who lived with people thrown together in circumstances that they couldn’t control. While the backdrop for this story is war, she intended to capture the indomitable nature of hope. And in fact, the story has become a powerful tale of loss and the struggle to survive.

This is a story of Skip, a young teen boy who tries to find a home and a family to belong to and care for. His life has left him feeling separated and out of sync with the others around him. Ignored by his parents and the foster care system, he decides to live on the streets. Then he teams up with Billy, an old homeless man. When war happens, Skip and Billy meet a six-year-old boy, Max, and a beautiful teenage dancer, Tia, with her baby, Sixpence. They form a fragile family together, set up home and hide out in the ruins of an amusement park when the conflict rages around them.

Scavenging for food, baby formula, and diapers, they have to stay out of sight of the gangs and lawless soldiers. Firstly, they rely on Billy, the only adult. But when life deteriorates, Billy falls apart. Skip, just a 12-year-old boy, must take over and lead the family to search for sanctuary. How long can Skip and his fragile family hold out while the war grips the city?

Glenda Millard has a great ability to track all the characters’ internal conflict right to their own potential breaking point. Although there are some shocking and disturbing moments, none of them is gratuitous. And the story is always kept compelling and moving.

For all of these things, A Small Free Kiss in the Dark is among the most un-put-downable favorites of pre-teens and younger teens, both girls and boys, to read and enjoy.