Grades 5-8. Written by two authors, this epistolary novel about two pen pals combines two richly detailed, separate stories while showing the essential connections shared between the young people. Born in India, Meena, 12, lives in a one-bedroom apartment in Chinatown, New York. While preparing for the citizenship exam, her mother works as a nanny, and her father searches for work elsewhere, only returning home one weekend a month. In rural Kentucky, River, 12, faces hardship when his coal-miner father loses his job and has to move far away, and his depressed mother barely gets out of bed. His support is Mamaw, his half-Cherokee grandmother, who is a passionate local environmental activist. Through e-mails, and occasional snail mails, both kids help each other through painful family tensions and struggles, and both suffer community prejudice as “hillbillies and immigrants looking for a handout.” Readers will be held by the kids’ challenges, along with the warm bond they share.