Fifteen-year-old Alexandria Hyatt wears Gucci and Prada, gets her hair coiffed by Mr. Henri, owns a Pomeranian pup named Sprout who serves as both companion and fashion accessory, and has her filthy-rich parents wrapped around her little finger. But when she gets caught shoplifting and ends up in front of a fed-up judge, even her high-society parents can’t pull enough strings to get her off scot-free. To avoid detention at a youth correctional centre, Alexandria must agree to volunteer in Africa with the international aid group Child Save.
Walters deals with the inequities and disparity in children’s lives across the globe in this well-written and funny adventure tale. At first, Alexandria seems to be something of a stereotype: a Paris Hilton caricature whose deluded-but-witty inner dialogue during the opening courtroom chapters is wholly entertaining. But Walters adds depth to the young girl by revealing flashes of brilliance in her beyond a caustic wit and sharp tongue. So it’s not a complete stretch that when Alexandria comes face to face with poverty and injustice in Kenya, she begins a slow change. She doesn’t become a perfect individual, nor does she throw off all of her former self-indulgent passions, but she does make room for a new awareness and begins to use her access to wealth to benefit others.
Through the author’s detailed descriptions of the Kenyan landscape and Maasai village life, readers will learn, along with Alexandria, a little bit about that part of the world. It may not be the same thing as traveling to Africa themselves, but young adult readers may be inspired by Alexandria’s adventures to become more aware of important global issues.