There is no safety net for Ari.
Or if there is one, it’s full of holes. Her parents are both dead, and a friend of her mother, Janna, has been guardian to Ari and her older brother, Gage, for the past few years. But 19-year-old Gage and Janna have never gotten along well. Gage lies to Janna about having a place of his own and moves out with 11-year-old Ari. As she struggles to keep up with her classes—her hopes of attending a school for the gifted next year rest on this unlikely feat—they move from place to place: friends’ and acquaintances’ homes, homeless shelters and even a car. Ari’s plight vividly illustrates the myriad consequences of homelessness, and the adults around her who should be picking up on the numerous clues to her situation seem oblivious. Her perceptive first-person voice neatly captures her conflicted loyalty to Gage but also to Janna, as well as her valiant attempts to make an impossible situation work out. Small acts of kindness help the pair get by. It’s Ari’s poignantly depicted play with her “Paper Things,” a treasured pseudo-family of cut-out magazine people, that conveys most effectively her loss and hope. If the resolution is too easy, it is also satisfying, the journey enlightening.
A thoughtful and moving exploration of homelessness. (Fiction. 10-14)