Breaking into Sunlight

(Algonquin Young Readers, June 2024)

A compassionate middle-grade debut with universal themes about a dad’s addiction, a mom’s decision, a son’s devotion – and the friends who help them find new perspective and strength.

A starred review from School Library Journal: “Cochran’s debut delivers a poignant, relatable read … an important novel for every library to have.”

Named one of the best debuts of summer/fall 2024 by the American Booksellers Association. Donna Liu of Kepler’s Books in Melo Park, California, said, “Compassionately written, and ultimately healing, this book is a must-read.”

Reese is a seventh-grader in rural North Carolina who loves drawing, basketball, his hardworking mom, and his charming, charismatic dad. But then one day, he comes home from school to his worst nightmare – his dad unconscious on the bathroom floor, lips turning blue. He’s overdosed on opioids. Again. Reese calls 911 and gets his dad out of danger, and he expects to go on as before. But for his mom, this is the breaking point, and she declares that she and Reese are leaving until Reese’s dad gets real help with his addiction. They move to a rundown trailer in the country outside town, where Reese is furious with his mom, scared for his dad, and terrified his friends will find out.

Then he meets Meg and Charlie, who have likewise been stranded by circumstances beyond their control. As the trio explores the blackwater river that runs nearby, Reese discovers new beauty and joy in nature and these fresh connections. His dad is also doing better, holding things together, and talking to his mom again. But how long can the good times last? And what will Reese do if — when — they end?

In the United States today, an estimated one in eight kids live with a parent with a substance-abuse problem. Written with bracing honesty, deep sympathy, and tenderness for all its characters, Breaking into Sunlight offers readers a powerful affirmation that no one is alone.