I am looking for a story that was part of a Reader's Digest anthology. I read in the very early 1990s as a German translation, but I am pretty sure, the story is from the USA (and was probably written in the 1980s).
I remember neither title nor author of the story, but this is a synopsis:
The story is probably set in the 1970s-1980s.
- Main actor is Mat[t]hew (?) McFadden, a teenager around 15-16 years old.
- He grew up on a farm (probably in Wyoming/Montana/Idaho), but lost his parents.
- The first days after his loss, he stays with an aunt and uncle.
- He also tried to commit suicide with a rope, but fails.
- Somehow he ends up in a prison cell, where he learns, that his uncle and aunt do not want to / can not care for him on the long term.
- Thus, he is sent to an orphanage (or a Juvenile Detention Center?).
During his time there he makes 3 close friends:
- The first is in his age.
- The second is also around that age, but has hearing problems that were diagnosed loo late. Due to this problems, his family thought he was mentally challenged and he did not get proper treatment and education. He is a physically strong and friendly, good-natured person.
- The third is younger, around 10. Grew up in a bad neighbourhood in a big city(?). He is clever, funny, and becomes the best friend of the "second guy". I think he also had fun learning sign language from his friend - I remember the sign for snow played a role.
There is also a bad guy (red haired?), a criminal and leader of a group of bullies, some ignorant watchmen and a female teacher who recognises the kid's true potential.
The conflict between the "good" and the "bad" kids escalates and Matthew fights with the bully-leader. This fight was described rather detailed, I remember lost teeth and blood. He wins this fight (strong farm boy), but the revenge would be fatal.
To save him, the teacher helps him to escape from the orphanage, brings him to an isolated farm where he can make a living. One by one, his friends come to this farm as well (either escape the orphanage or are old enough to be released). These last parts after his escape were less detailed, rather an epilogue.
Does anyone have an idea about the title/author or how to find it?
It is not Holes by Louis Sachar. Comparing the two, I would say, the story I am looking for is more dramatic. The story focuses on the things that went wrong in the kid's previous life and the things that are wrong in this orphanage (e.g. like the ignorant watchmen).