A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that No Place tells the story of a middle-class teen who becomes homeless. It's sure to make teens think about economics, homelessness, and poverty in America. Some gritty, violent scenes include a description of a brutal beating that puts the victim in a coma. Sexual content is limited to a few kisses; protagonist Dan admits that his and his girlfriend's mutual attraction is based on their looks. He also visits a Hooters with his friends to cheer up. Some adults drink.
What's the story?
After Dan's parents lose their home, the family decides to try moving to Dignityville, an experimental homeless camp being managed by the town. A popular baseball star, Dan is in disbelief about his new situation, which involves sharing a tent with his parents and showering at school; but he does get free dinner at the camp, and his mom even helps start a community garden there. Unfortunately, not everyone in town is happy about Dignityville, which looks like it might be permanent: When one of the leaders, a friend of Dan's, is severely beaten, the teen starts to piece together the crime -- and can't believe who's behind it.
Is it any good?
NO PLACE will wake readers up to the realities of poverty and homelessness -- and provide some insight into the way the American economy works. Teens will learn about these serious subjects through Dan's story, as well as through facts and questions peppered into the story line. For example, Dan's government and politics teacher asks, "Is it right to round up all the homeless and put them in one place?"
Readers may be less enthralled by the conspiracy Dan uncovers about a powerful man's plan to destroy Dignityville. This part of the book feels contrived and adds an unnecessary layer to Dan's story. Even so, there's plenty to think about in this timely tale; parents and teachers might use No Place to encourage their teens to think about our interconnected economy and the best way to help families escape poverty.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about homelessness and poverty. Were you surprised by Dan's statement that nearly "a third of our country is living at or near the poverty level"? Do you know anyone who's struggling with this situation?
Do you think a city-supported homeless camp like Dignityville is a good idea?
Dan gets some support from school, like free breakfast and lunch. What else do you think he and other teens in his situation need?
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