________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 5 . . . . October 5, 2012


Iíll Be Home Soon.

Luanne Armstrong.
Vancouver, BC: Ronsdale Press, 2012.
191 pp., pbk. & ebook, $11.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-55380-180-1 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55380-181-8. (ebook).

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Chris Laurie.

**** /4



Three weeks ago her mother said ďWait for me, Iíve got a chance to make some real money. Iíll be home soon, back in two, three days. Thereís food for that long. Donít skip school.Ē She had dressed in her best clothes, with her red high-heeled shoes. She had pinned up her long red hair and put on her silver earrings. And left, in a cloud of perfume and scent from her hairspray. And then she hadnít come back.

Three weeks after her mother leaves Regan home alone, the food has run out. She canít continue going to school every day and pretending nothing is wrong. Not knowing what else to do, Regan finally reaches out for help, confiding in her English teacher, Mrs. Harris. But the police donít seem interested in looking for another missing woman. And when Social Services tries to put Regan in a group home, she escapes and begins to track down where her mother might have gone.

      Reganís friend Mike, a local busker, has heard on the street there have been men recruiting vulnerable women with promises of money. Regan can recall the name of the man her mom left with, and Mike recognizes the name. When Regan goes to confront the man, he tells her that her mother has stolen millions of dollars from him, then tries to grab her, and pursues her through the city streets. In fear for her safety, Regan moves from the apartment she had been sharing with her mother, to a camp Mike knows that a group of homeless people have set up. After repeated close calls with the men, Regan returns to tell all she has learned to the police. This time, a sympathetic officer, Brenda Silsbie, listens to Reganís story and vows to do what she can. Refusing to stay in another group home, Regan stays in a squat with Mike to wait for the police to find her mom. Out walking one day, Regan meets a man named Reg near the neighbourhood church. He offers to pay her to write a blog about street youth in the neighbourhood. Writing about her experiences on the street increases Reganís confidence, and she soon realises that her voice might bear more weight if it is accompanied by those of her new friends. She recruits Mike, Reg and her instructor, Lee Kwan, to go with her to the police to demand they take her momís search seriously.

      Eventually, the police find a location that shows signs of criminal activity, with people coming and going all day and night. But, because none of the activity is overtly illegal, the police can only sit and wait for something to happen. One evening, Regan gets a call from Officer Silsbie saying that there has been an incident at the house. Terrified that something might have happened to her mom, Regan races across town, arriving at the address to discover the house is engulfed in flames. The police believe that the house is a meth lab, and neither they nor the fire department will do anything until the HazMat team arrives. Regan circles around to the back of the building and hears screaming coming from the broken, smoking windows. Is her mother inside?

      Readers will have to remind themselves that the protagonist of this novel is only 13-years-old through much of the story. Thrust into having to not only survive on her own, but also to locate and rescue her mother, Regan is a remarkable character. Regan meets many remarkable, but thoroughly believable, characters on her journey. The bleak downtown streets, at turns frightening or friendly, could be any large city. Regan is often frightened but never gives up, and she shows exceptional strength of will. Out of necessity, she matures quickly, finding confidence and strength in herself, then gathering friends, the police, and social service agencies to take the disappearances of local women seriously. But this novel does not end like a neatly wrapped gift. Like the world it reflects, loose ends abound. Realistic and tightly plotted, Iíll be Home Soon is a modern thriller that contains all the hallmarks of a teen novel, with tempered violence and language that suits it perfectly to Ďtweens and young teens.

      Luanne Armstrong is the author of 14 books, including novels and non-fiction. Her YA novel, Jeannie and the Gentle Giants, (Vol. VIII, No. 21) was nominated for the Canadian Library Associationís Book of the Year, the Sheila Egoff BC Book Prize Award and the Red Cedar Award.

Highly Recommended.

Chris Laurie is an Outreach Librarian at Winnipeg Public Library.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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