The Kids are All Right

Some books you're supposed to read in ninth grade English but maybe you don't because they're so effing boring. (The Grapes of Wrath.) Some books you do read, and you tolerate them. Others totally take you by surprise—sure they're literary or whatever, but they're also good. You can't really relate to the characters' situations but you can relate to the way they feel. And 15 years later, you read them again, and they're still good. Maybe better.

Like Homecoming, by Cynthia Voigt. When I checked this out from the library to read for the Shelf Discovery Challenge, I was intimidated by its length and seemingly tiny font size. For real, compared to the YA books I've been reading, it looked hard. Sometimes I can't believe the stuff I used to read for fun back in high school and college. (Like, The Picture of Dorian Gray. I remember it as an awesome book, but these days I'd rather pick up the next installment of The A-List.) Still, right from the first page, Homecoming is riveting. Dicey, James, Maybeth and Sammy Tillerman are the most scrappy and resilient kids I know. After their mom abandons them in a mall parking lot, they basically walk across the whole state of Connecticut to get to their Great Aunt Cilla's house. AND THEN SHE'S NOT EVEN THERE. (Don't worry, that's not the end of the book, so if you haven't read it yet I didn't just spoil everything for you.)

Julie Just's recent New York Times article decries the absence of parents, or "good" parents, in YA lit. Yes, I think the general lack of parenting in the genre is unrealistic. But one of the best things about YA lit is kids doing it on their own. Dicey realizes almost immediately that their mom isn't coming back and that it's up to her take care of her siblings. She doesn't go to the police, because she doesn't want them to be split up into different foster homes. Instead, she budgets what little money they have for food, studies maps for the best routes, lets people think she's a boy if it'll make the situation better. And she's only 13!

There's one part in the book when Dicey reads the epitaph on a gravestone that implies no one is ever really home until they're dead. Surviving as a nomad, she returns to this idea from time to time. Maybe she and her siblings could just keep on the move, taking in odd jobs and living off the land, until they turn 18. Maybe they don't really need a "home." Maybe all they need is each other.

This marks my last post for the Shelf Discovery Challenge, for which I read six books in six months. The final list:
Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt


Julie P. said...

I have heard wonderful things about this book! I'll have to give it a try. Thanks for participating in the SD Challenge -- I hope you enjoyed it.

curator of cute said...

sounds like a great read!

Jen said...

wow, I vaguely remember reading this, but your post really brought it all back!

Congrats on doing the Shelf Discovery challenge.

Sadako said...

Great book choices. I don't know if I read all of this--it's been sooo long, but Cynthia Voigt was pretty awesome, wasn't she?