CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number 9. . . .November 4, 2016
If This is Home.
Toronto, ON: Dundurn, 2017.
196 pp., trade pbk., epub & PDF, $12.99 (pbk.), $8.99 (epub), $12.99 (PDF).
ISBN 978-1-4597-3650-4 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4597-3652-8 (epub), ISBN 978-1-4597-3651-1 (PDF).
Grades 7-10 / Ages 12-15.
Review by Cate Carlyle.
Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.
I awake with a start to the sound of beeping monitors, a slow, steady rhythm. I open my eyes and bristle from the bright florescent lights above.
So it is all true. We are actually in the hospital. This wasnít a dream after all.
Mom is sleeping. Despite all of the tubes and things sticking out of her and how pale she looks, she seems to be resting comfortably. Ellie is sleeping, too. Sheís in the chair beside me, curled up into a ball. She looks so small and vulnerable, like a kitten. I stroke her forehead gently and then reach for my momís hand.
Her hand is cold, her skin papery thin and almost translucent. When did she get to be so frail? I wonder. Seeing her this way, examining her up close, I canít believe how different she looks. Maybe I was just so busy trying to keep up with everything that I hadnít noticed. After all, Mom hasnít been feeling well for a long time.
Jayce Louwen takes care of her four-year-old sister Ellie while her mother works two jobs to barely make ends meet. Jayceís dad took off years ago to pursue his rock star dreams and makes random surprise visits, visits that are just long enough to make them all love him again and believe he may one day return permanently. When Jayce returns from school one day, trailed by the new guy from school who could be boyfriend material, she is shocked to find her mom being loaded into an ambulance. Stricken with stage four cancer, Jayceís mom can no longer support her girls, and Jayce is forced to find her absentee father and the maternal grandparents who cut off their daughter long ago. Jayce and Ellie ultimately find a new home with their reformed grandma and new friend Kurt while struggling to reconnect with their father and the realization that heíd had a second family all those years.
In If This is Home, Scarrow captures the heart and mind of a teenaged girl coping with poverty and the impending loss of her only parent. Jayce is a smart, strong girl, and Scarrow doesnít sugarcoat her daily struggles to feed and care for both herself and a four-year-old while keeping their plight a secret from authorities. The redemption of the grandmother and hint of reconciliation with the less-than-lovable dad make for a positive and hopeful conclusion. The fact that Kurt becomes a brotherly member within the new blended family at grandmaís house, and not a love interest, is refreshing. If This is Home is a great read that tackles head on the difficult and sensitive topics of cancer, family, teenage pregnancy, poverty, adolescence, friendship and forgiveness.
Cate Carlyle, a former elementary teacher currently residing in Halifax, NS, is a librarian at Mount Saint Vincent University.
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