This wonderful book is about an adolescent girl named Baby whose parents had her when they were fifteen. Her mom died and she is being (kind of ) raised by her dad, who has schizophrenia. So many sad and heartbreaking things happen in this book, but it is so gorgeously written, and Baby is such a convincing protagonist, that it is not as hard as you might expect.
The balance between childhood and adulthood, between the sweetness of first love and the exploitation of the street, between health and addiction, between the dream and reality of what a family is or should be… O’Neill manages to portray all the complications and confusions of Baby’s life so sweetly and directly and with such deep empathy for the limited choices available to people whose lives are constrained by poverty and abuse and major mental illness and institutionalisation.
I like that this book neither romanticises nor exoticises street life and addiction and mental illness. Sometimes books with these issues in them feel a bit voyeuristic, but this one just feels real. A good story, well told.
Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O’Neill. 2006. ISBN 978-0-06-087507-7.