Parents' Guide to

At the Edge of the Haight

By Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 16+

Gritty, empathetic tale of street kids, dysfunction, murder.

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Katherine Seligman's empathetic, harrowing portrait of young adults living on San Francisco's streets offers an emotionally complex look at issues and relationships that defy easy answers. Residing At the Edge of the Haight, narrator and former foster kid Maddy's discovery of a murder victim sets events, relationships, and perspectives in motion amid the grinding daily struggle for survival. Her friends are profoundly broken, but their determination to live on their own terms, whatever tradeoffs that involves, offers a lot to think about. There are lots of flashbacks to Maddy's childhood with her mentally ill mother and in foster families. Here, Maddy turns 18 and bails on foster care forever:

"Karen wanted me to work at a hair salon and learn a skill so I could support myself, and probably so I could take care of her hair that looked like a dried-up palm tree. But I was not a hair salon kind of person. I couldn't tell what would make anyone look better.

"'Missy thinks she knows it all,' she said.

"She didn't expect I'd stuff clothes in my school backpack and buy a bus ticket north. I never called or wrote a letter to tell her where I was. My life with her was over and there was nothing she could do. I sat awake all night on the bus, afraid to close my eyes while it climbed past the foothills, through the huge dirt fields of the valley and back over to the coast. I had heard about San Francisco, how you can just live your life, because everyone isn't watching you all the time."

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