Dan is middle-class and college-bound, but that won’t keep the global recession from taking his home.
Dan—with a stockbroker mother and a city-employee father, headed to Rice on a baseball scholarship—was once a solid member of the middle class. But when his parents lose their jobs, the family winds up in Dignityville, a tent city for the town’s homeless. Homelessness, he learns, isn’t merely the absence of a roof and four walls: It’s hunger, insecure storage, shame, exhaustion, physical vulnerability, and disconnection from phone service and Wi-Fi. Even geography becomes Dan’s enemy, as he discovers Dignityville is outside his school district, and his after-school job is too far away to reach. Highly politicized infodumps about America’s growing wealth disparity, while unsubtle, are smoothly integrated through the voices of minor characters with messages to impart. There’s an Occupy-style activist with informative posters, a young black man sneering at the surprise of middle-class white people at being “shoved down to the bottom where they never thought they’d be,” even Dan’s own Web searches for a school research project springing from his experiences.
For similar themes with less of a problem-novel vibe, try Sarah Dooley’s lovely Body of Water (2011); nonetheless, Dan’s experience with middle-class poverty is accessible and timely. (Fiction. 13-15)