The Exact Location of Home

Book review by
Rachel Sarah, Common Sense Media
The Exact Location of Home Book Poster Image
Moving story of boy losing his home and finding resilience.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

A STEM-related story with lots of fun, interesting details about electricity, GPS coordinates, geocaching, and nesting herons.

Positive Messages

Life can be hard and bitterly disappointing, but good, loving friends will help you get through the tough times. Be careful about judging others, because you don't know what someone else might be going through. Stand up for yourself.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Zig is caring and resilient. His friends stand by him and help him try to find his dad. Zig's teacher lectures the class about "the less fortunate," as if no one in his class has ever had to face poverty or homelessness.

Violence & Scariness

References to domestic violence in a marriage, but no graphic scenes.



What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Exact Location of Home is a stand-alone companion novel to Kate Messner's The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. It's about an eighth-grade boy who becomes homeless yet still has to manage going to school and dealing with family issues, including an absent father and domestic abuse, but there are no graphic or violent scenes. Parents should be ready to discuss what it means to lose your home and struggle financially. Messner tells this story with compassion and empathy, and there are positive messages here about overcoming adversity, pursuing what you're passionate about, and being a good friend. 

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What's the story?

In THE EXACT LOCATION OF HOME, Kirby "Zig" Zigonski hasn't seen his father, a wealthy developer, for more than a year. Zig doesn't understand why his mother won't reach out to his father, especially after their landlady evicts them for not keeping up with the rent.

When they have to move to the local shelter for homeless people, Zig does everything he can to hide his new living situation from his eighth-grade classmates. There are realistic scenes of poverty and resilience, as well as an environmental thread about saving wildlife and a mystery to solve as Zig and his best friend, Gianna, follow geocaching clues to try to find Zig's father.

Is it any good?

This is an authentic, moving story about of a 13-year-old boy struggling to understand why he's lost his home and his father as he tries to do the right thing at home and in school. The story begins on a quiet note, but the more you read, the more you uncover the poignant themes about struggling financially, longing for a missing parent, and facing shame among your peers. 

Along the way, the story introduces big themes such as taking care of the environment and taking care of a loved one with dementia. This unsentimental, uncomfortable novel is a must-read about real life in the contemporary United States.  

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how being homeless is portrayed in The Exact Location of Home. What do you think it would be like to live in an unfamiliar shelter? How would eating, sleeping, or bathing be different?

  • How do you think being homeless could affect kids' ability to learn in school? How might it affect their friendships? 

  • In your community, are there any new housing developments going up? How is this affecting the environment and local wildlife?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love coming-of-age and family stories

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