Hobbs is just playing a rough and tumble game of football with some of his friends next to the abandoned sugar factory when the ball gets lost, again, in the crazy pine tree that no one ever wants to go into because it is so dense and thick. And of course, no one thought to bring another football, so Hobbs forces himself into the tree to grab the ball. What he really doesn’t expect to find is a teenager living at the base of the tree! In fact, it pretty much freaks him out! He gets the ball and gets the heck out of there.
Up is worried after the boy finds his hiding spot. After all, if he tells anyone, he’ll have to move and the whole reason he hasn’t moved lately is because he really doesn’t feel good, at all. Having run away from his abusive mother, Up is determined to find his sister who he thinks lives in Florida.
After that chance meeting in the tree, Hobbs can’t stop thinking about the kid living there, and especially when it seems he keeps seeing Up around town, even seeming to get into it with the new guy in town that is also causing Hobbs trouble at school. Hobbs feels like he has enough on his plate without having to worry about some random stranger who keeps crossing his path. But when his neighbor, Cheri, points out some harsh truths about him, he begins to feel he needs to do something about Up, but what?
The Upside of Down by Dawn Malone throws readers into ethical dilemmas and won’t let the hard questions go. Both Up and Hobbs have some difficult decisions to make and the reader is left wondering if they made the correct ones, but hopeful that they did.
Recommended for grades 6th and up.