Posts Tagged 'shelter'

Runaway by Wendelin Van Draanen



Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  281

RAC Book:  Yes

2010 Iowa Teen Award

Holly writes her story in a diary style format as she escapes from an abusive foster home and goes on the run.  She describes how she travels, finds food, and avoids capture from police.  The life of a runaway is more difficult than many teens probably realize because many shelters will not help you unless you are accompanied by an adult.  As Holly weighs her possible choices, her main focus is always on survival from starvation, bullies, and even the haunting memories of her drug addicted mother who left her in this position.

Life on the street is much harsher than most teens realize and this book accurately describes what it would be like to have to fend for yourself at the age of 12.  The reasons for why Holly chooses to live on the street instead of a foster home are made clear as well as her fears of asking anyone for help.  The details begin to feel a little long at times as the reader waits for things to change for Holly.  The ending is satisfying, albeit a bit too easy after such a difficult journey.  Readers who like journal style entries like in Go Ask Alice will find this interesting.  Also, fans of A Child Called It will enjoy this quick read about a similar topic.

Can’t Get There From Here by Todd Strasser

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

Age Level:  14 and up

# of Pages:  198

RAC Book:  Yes

2008 Iowa Award Winner

Maybe lives on the street with several other teens.  They have all been forced into a life on the street and survive by panhandling and digging through dumpsters.  Every time they are approached by someone who wants to help them get off the street they ignore the help and choose to stay in their position.  Due to the extreme circumstances and bitter cold they start dying one by one. 

Tears is a twelve year old girl who was kicked out of her house when she reported that her stepfather was abusing her and her mother failed to believe her.  Maybe begins to see how living on the streets is not a choice after all, but the final solution when the other choices have been exhausted.  She decides to make sure that Tears does not face the same fate as many of the other teens.

This book tries to show teens what it’s like to live on the street with the cold, panhandling, disease, and the way people mistreat the homeless.  Although many of them have had terrible people take advantage of them in their lives and feel like they can take care of themselves, it still seems unbelievable that these teens would choose to freeze under a bridge instead of going to a shelter when the opportunity arises.  The lives of these homeless and abused teens are so far from what many students know that I’m not sure they will be able to really understand these characters.

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.