A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Pavi's intimate knowledge of the foster care system is something that she outlines for her "clients." She understands how the system works, and she helps kids navigate the ropes. Some mention of historical Texans like Davy Crockett, Sam Houston and Stephen Austin while the kids are doing research projects.
Going through hard times can make you a stronger, more resilient person. People can surprise you by changing for the better. Some people really want to help others in need. Kindness toward others can change a life for the better.
Positive Role Models
The adults in this book are pretty aware of what's going on in the kids' lives around them, but they don't always step in when needed -- or else they can't reach the kids emotionally. Pavi's foster mom, Marjorie, avails herself to Pavi without forcing her to try to connect or to be someone she's not.
Violence & Scariness
Pavi's experience in foster homes put her in contact with a family that hosted dog fights in the backyard. She witnessed her puppy being mauled by another dog and killed. She has flashbacks of neglect and poor care.
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Products & Purchases
Hot Cheetos are Pavi's go-to food when she's nervous, so there's a lot of mention of them. She barters her services for Hot Cheetos, Ticonderga pencils and Sharpies. Sprite, Google, Snickers, Macy's, Crock Pot, University of Texas, Kool Aid, YouTube, Pinterest, Rollerblades, "Annie," 7-Eleven, Tootsie Rolls, Barbie, Ziploc, Target, Jell-O, Harry Potter books, Aretha Franklin, Ruth Bader Ginsberg
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults drink beer at dog fights. Beer cans on the ground at the Nickerson's house. Pavi remembers her mom smelling like cigarettes and sour milk.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Pavi Sharma's Guide to Going Home, by Bridget Farr, is a story about surviving the foster care system, as told by a seventh-grade kid who lives in Texas. Pavi Sharma has bounced around a few foster care homes, and though she's landed in a good and safe situation with a single mom named Marjorie and a boy named Hamilton (who happens to be a classmate), she's haunted by memories of neglect and abandonment. Pavi has taken to consulting other foster kids about making good first impressions and doing research on the foster placements. She can be hardened to people's good intentions, saying things like: "Adults don't believe kids." and "Adults have caused all the problems I've ever had." In one foster home Pavi was exposed to the violence of dog fighting and saw her puppy being mauled by another dog and killed. In another she was told she doesn't have any friends or any family by a friend of a kid. And she believes from experience that it's "especially hard to find forever families for black and brown kids." Kids manipulate and bribe a small child with candy under the pretense of protecting her. Adults drink beer at dog fights. Strong language includes "crappy" and "Jesus."
Is It Any Good?
This fast-paced and engrossing story features a main character who's had her share of hard knocks. Pavi Sharma's Guide to Going Home introduces a smart if jaded, clever if exhausted, hero who would rather build skills of self-reliance than be tossed about in the unknown seas of foster family life. She keeps her sad past at bay by helping kids navigate the foster care system. This very act, writing down detailed notes about each kid on her clipboard, doing internet searches about their placement families, getting paid in junk food and markers makes Pavi immediately likable and relatable. Who doesn't love a kid with a side hustle?
Though the other characters in the story aren't crafted with quite as much depth as Pavi, her big feelings of sadness, abandonment, and never truly fitting in feel universal enough to carry the book. The plot is engrossing and harrowing, but the adventure could have been detailed a little more to achieve the resolution that Pavi deserves. In this case, more would have been more.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.