Falling Through the Cracks.
Grades 7 - 10 / Ages 12 - 15.
Melanie is 16 and living on the street because she cannot get along with her parents. So far she has remained in school and has not had to resort to prostitution or theft, but she is unsure how much longer she can manage. When she meets Trent, who is also on his own and trying to complete high school, he invites her to share his apartment. Though Trent is a stranger who seems even worse off than she is and the apartment is terrible, Melanie accepts because anything is better than the street. The remainder of the novel details Melanie and Trent's desperate attempts to combine school with part-time jobs which bring in enough money to keep a roof over their heads. Though the end of the story is upbeat, it is not a "lives happily ever after" ending which would be completely unsuitable, given what went before.
My first reaction to a young adult novel on a topic like this aimed at young adults is to fear that it will take either of two extremes. The first is that the story will be so ugly, graphic and hopeless that it will be considered unacceptable for younger teens to read. The second is that the story will be completely unrealistic, either because the author lacks knowledge of the topic, or because s/he misguidedly attempts to make the story acceptable for younger readers. Though I do not have the first-hand knowledge to judge the authenticity of Falling Through the Cracks, it seems that the author has been largely successful in avoiding both extremes.
The book seems realistic - some students do complete high school while living on their own - although Melanie is perhaps a bit too responsible and mature to be believable, and one wonders why her parents would not seriously attempt to get the family back together after she leaves. Overall, however, this novel is one that tells an important story that will capture the interest of teenage readers and I recommend it.
Irene Gordon is a teacher-librarian who has spent the past thirteen years working in a junior high school in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and is presently co-editor of the MSLA Journal published by the Manitoba School Library Association.
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Copyright © 1997 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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