Mary M. Burns
Reflecting on the summer of his thirteenth year, Stowe Garrett [the hero of IOU's,] concludes that it has been a time of goodbyes…. But goodbyes also mean the chance to explore possibilities as yet barely apprehensible—the hopeful note on which the book concludes. Written from the adolescent's perspective, the story explores with sensitivity and insight the relationship between two remarkable individuals—Stowe and his unconventional mother Annie. Separated from her husband, disinherited by her father, Annie has struggled to keep their fragile household afloat, specializing in tasks which permit her to work at home. The work is hard, and the return small; yet the bond between mother and son is strong. And it is from these three elements that the central conflict emerges. Angered because husband and father both failed her, Stowe dreams of someday supporting them himself. His ambitions, however, are frequently sabotaged by adolescent ambivalence and stubbornness…. The resolution is neither glib nor simple but rather reflective of reality where large losses are sometimes followed by small advances. What is most important is that Stowe and his mother emerge from adversity not necessarily unscathed but undaunted. With feeling, but not without humor, the novel works on many levels. The characters, developed in action and dialogue, are remarkably well rounded, and the theme, as in Words by Heart … is a substantial one.
Mary M. Burns, in a review of "IOU's," in The Horn Book Magazine, Vol. LVIII, No. 4, August, 1982, p. 418.