Merry Wanderer of the Night + YA

Award Winning Wednesday — Keesha's House & My Heartbeat

Sorry that this post is going up way later than normal — I've already had 2 posts go up today (crazy scheduling) and wanted to have them at least a little spread out. And, I had some stuff come up after work that I wasn't expecting... Sorry.:)

Anyway, I wanted to do two mini-reviews, both Printz Honor winners and both that, although dealing with different issues, both do have a similar emotion tied into the story.

First is Keesha's House by Helen Frost. It's a story written in verse about teenagers struggling to find their place in life, struggling to make it from day to day. The story is told in a series of poems written by/about different characters in the story. Although most of the poems are from the seven teenagers, there are a few verses from the POV of the family or adults these teens left behind and we do get to hear from Joe a time or two as well (more on him in a sec). Keesha's dad is an alcoholic and abusive, so she leaves. She finds Joe's house, and Joe lets her stay. She pays what she can in rent and is able to have a place for as long as she needs it where she feels safe. Initially, I was worried about this — Adult man letting teenage girl stay in his home... Screams creeper. But it worked. Somehow, especially after we read the poems from Joe he really is just a super nice guy trying to do for kids what his aunt did for him — provide a safe and comfortable place where these kids can just feel secure. Several of the other teens in the story spend time at Joe's, although they hear about it through Keesha and she becomes almost the protector. She's the one that lets them know that there is a safe place they can go if they need to, a safe place for them when they feel they have no other options.

My heart broke for so many of these kids. One mistake that changed their lives, one life ruptured through someone else's mistakes, some who just can't seem to keep their head above water. I wished so much for these kids to be safe, to have people in their lives who love them and would care for them. It's a short book, just over 100 pages but every page counts, every page brings you into their lives, makes you care for them more and more and you just open your heart to these kids. It makes me wish that all kids would be able to find a place where they can stay, a place where they were able to find a temporary haven.

This is a book I don't think should be missed, a book that I think is important. If you are looking for a quick but powerful read, grab this one.

My Heartbeat by Garret Freymann-Weyr is another emotional read, although this one is written in more traditional prose. In this story, Ellen absolutely loves her older brother Link, and his best friend James. She's more than a little in love with James, but it's a little bit of a joke between them, pretty much understood to be a school girl crush. But then, she hears people talking about the two of them at their school, asking if they are a 'couple'. She's never really thought about it before, and doesn't really understand much of what it means, so she asks. She knows it's getting into a messy area, because in her family, you walk away... You do not talk about the tough stuff. But she is so confused and so desperately wants to know and understand her brother better that she asks. And everything changes.

Link is not gay. He's very adamant and defensive about it. James is, or not, or is. He's not really completely sure, but he's also not terribly concerned with giving it a label. He loves who he loves and I never got the feeling that he cared if the person was male or female. He loves Link but nothing sexual has happened between them and Link won't even talk about that possibility. But when Ellen forces it into the open, it ruptures the dynamic of their friendship.

Link and James stop hanging out, Link gets a girlfriend and Ellen and James start spending more and more time together.

I liked a lot about this book. I loved the way that Ellen sought out information on a subject that she didn't understand. She bought books, asked questions, looked up information online and tried talking to others about it. I also loved the initial time that Ellen and James spent together, because it taught her a whole new, and much broader way of viewing the world.

But I'm not sure I loved the direction the book went, especially the changes in certain relationship dynamics.

But then again, I'm torn. When you read a book, there is a certain expectation in the resolution. We expect a certain amount of closure, a certain level of completeness. And this book didn't really have that. Yes there is a lot of improvement, a lot of growth and maturation, but a lot was left very much up in the air. And I've decided that I'm okay with that. Because real life is messy. And in a story like this, there is no complete happy ending, there is no pretty package tied with ribbons and that's okay. Because it's real. There were some places the story went that I didn't really love, but the book was real. Life isn't clean, life doesn't always follow orderly and organizable paths. Often it's crazy, messy and hectic and you know, it's nice to read a story that ends without that completeness because it means that the characters don't have to end, just because the book has.

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Award Winning Wednesday — Keesha's House & My Heartbeat + YA