Can't Get There From Here by Todd Strasser (208 pages; Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2004)

A teenage girl named Maybe arrives on the streets alone and confused, abandoned by her family. How could she have possibly wound up here, and how will she survive? Luckily, she finds a tribe of street kids who quickly become her brothers and sisters; they only have each other to depend on, and they depend on each other for everything.

Now, surrounded by her new "family," Maybe does what she can to make ends meet. She and her best friend, Rainbow, dart into coffee shops and retail stores just long enough to get warm and wash up, while OG has a constant cough and never gets better but takes it upon himself to adopt a stray mutt, and Moro relies on prostitution for cash so she won't go hungry.

A cold January day brings a new addition to their makeshift family, a girl named Tears, who at only 12 years old is instantly the youngest of the group, and who left home because her mother wouldn't believe her accusations of abuse at the hands of her stepfather. Maybe sees Tears as a shot at redemption for all the "siblings," because as friends mysteriously vanish every day, she feels it's her mission to get Tears off the streets before she vanishes too.

Todd Strasser depicts the day-to-day existence of street kids with startling reality in Can't Get There From Here. The fantasy that "life is better on the street" is stripped away, leaving only the reality of how hard such a life can be. The author demonstrates how common life-or-death decisions are for these "throwaway" children, and how no one but their own notices when one of them disappears.

Missing by Catherine MacPhail (192 pages; Bloomsbury, 2002)

Maxine is your typical 13-year-old girl. She doesn’t like school, she ditches whenever she can, and she's constantly looking for a way to escape from her life.

After her brother, Derek, goes missing, Maxine feels like her parents don’t even notice she's alive; the only time they do notice her is when she gets into trouble, and then everything's her fault. She feels she can never live up to the image they have of their perfect son, but when they receive a call from the police to identify a body, she's relieved that she might finally be able to step out of Derek's shadow.

Unfortunately, the situation only gets worse. For one thing, Maxine's mother becomes obsessed with the idea that Derek’s spirit is around her at all times, and seeks out mediums so that she can feel more connected to her son. For another, Derek had been missing for months before his body was found. One day he just didn’t come home from school, and no one heard from him again—no one except Maxine. Now, even after he's been laid to rest, she's still getting phone calls from someone claiming to be him. Maxine finds a confidant in her friend Cam, and together they try to unravel the mystery of the calls until, unexpectedly, the person on the other end asks to meet Maxine. Could it really be her brother?

Cryer's Cross by Lisa McMann (240 pages; Simon Pulse, 2011)

Nothing much ever happens in Cryer’s Cross, a tiny town with nothing fancier than a general store. Kendall, a senior at the local one-room high school, has lived there all her life. Her boyfriend is her next-door neighbor, and they're making plans for college in the fall when, suddenly, everything changes.

A classmate disappears, followed three months later by another. The police find no trace of the missing kids, which devastates the town, and Kendall’s obsessive-compulsive disorder makes it almost impossible for her to handle everything that's going on, including the new neighbors just down the road. From the moment they moved in, their son has been questioned in the disappearance of the first missing student, and Kendall's unsure if she should trust him.

Then the cries for help start appearing, scratched into a desk at school: "PLEASE." "SAVE ME." Kendall's convinced they're coming from the missing teens, but now she must prove it to the rest of Cryer's Cross.

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