A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Brenda Rufener's Where I Live is an intense look at the life of a teen who's homeless and desperately trying to move on from her painful past. Physical abuse occurs in a teen relationship. There are also scenes depicting bullying and racism, such as when Toby tells Seung "he should move back to his homeland" and "Go back to China and stay away from my girl!" The violent passages aren't so graphic as to be hard for sensitive readers to get through. The book offers an honest look at how a young woman can end up without a home. None of the drinking or smoking is glorified. Swearing is frequent and includes "f--k," "s--t," as well as "a--hole," and all of their variations.
What's the story?
No one at Hinderwood High knows that Linden Rose has a dark past or a big secret. She's homeless, living in the halls and dugout of her small-town high school, and she's good at keeping this on the down low, even from her best friends, Ham (who's gay) and Seung (who's mixed-race Korean and white). No one in the newsroom where Linden is the school's blog editor knows what she's hiding. Her goal is to graduate and go to college, which is why she's working two jobs and doing everything she can to keep her grades up. The basics are a struggle: taking a shower, not falling asleep in class, and keeping the contents of her backpack a secret. When Linden discovers that a classmate's boyfriend is abusing her, she worries for her but also knows what it's like to desperately hold on to a secret.
Is it any good?
This heartbreaking but ultimately uplifting debut novel captures the depth and ripple effects of homelessness. The subject matter is heavy but important, especially because there are so few mainstream stories about homeless teens. That said, the subplots here -- such as a classmate whose boyfriend hits her and a friend who's coming out -- are often disjointed, making the narrative arc quite challenging to follow.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Where I Live deals with a homeless teen. Have you ever read a novel about a high schooler who doesn't have a home? How is homelessness usually portrayed in movies and TV?
After reading this story, do you find yourself having more empathy for people in real life who are homeless?
Many young adult novels deal with physical or mental illness. Which others have you read and liked? What's so compelling about these topics?
- Author: Brenda Rufener
- Genre: Contemporary Fiction
- Topics: Friendship, Great boy role models, Great girl role models, High school, Misfits and underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publication date: February 27, 2018
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 18
- Number of pages: 352
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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