Shelter by Beth Cooley

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

Age Level:  12 and up

# of pages:  211

RAC Book:  Yes

Lucy, along with her mother and brother, Jimmy, is still recovering from the death of her father.  As her mother delves into their personal finances she realizes that things were not as her husband had led her to believe.  They had a lot of debt, no life insurance, and no way to pay their bills.  Her mother had always stayed at home and had no degree or work experience.  They soon had to move out of the house in favor of a duplex, which turned into a motel, which turned into a homeless shelter.

As Lucy adjusts to life in the homeless shelter and a new public school, she must also help her mother who is struggling in her new life.  Once Lucy stops mourning her old life, she begins to see that the other people she lives with have all endured hardships and are struggling hard to overcome them.  She meets teenage single mothers trying to earn their GEDs.  She meets women who had to fight to get their kids back.  She even meets a mail order bride who fled her abusive husband. 

Lucy decides to make the best of things and gets an after school job.  Her brother adjusts really well and enjoys playing with the other kids.  Her mom tries to take some classes, but does not do well at them and begins to wonder what she is going to do to pull her family out of this situation.  Lucy too begins to realize that her situation may not have been as temporary as she had hoped.

Shelter is a good story to help students understand what it would be like to live in a shelter.  The teenage protagonist is believable in her feelings and actions in this environment, which students will identify with.  As scary as things seem to be for this family, however, they never fully lose hope and neither do those around them.  This book helps us all to remember that there are so many ways to make a difference and help those around us because little things like donations and volunteering helped many of the characters in this book to get back on their feet.

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