Okay, I’ll be honest. I requested to review this book for one reason: the author is from Oklahoma and a graduate from my alma mater, The University of Oklahoma. I’m all about supporting my fellow Sooners. But I also thought the topic of this book, teen homelessness, was too intriguing to pass up. I’m a fan of many authors and now after finishing ROAM I am happy to add C.H. Armstrong to the list.
A couple of years ago while volunteering at my son’s high school registration, I had my first encounter with teen homelessness. I was working at the first table, the table where you have to get my stamp of approval (i.e., have all of the necessary paperwork in order and no outstanding library fines) before getting to enter. Halfway through the morning, a counselor approached me with a student.
She abruptly told me, “I will be taking this student through the line. He is homeless and lost all of this textbooks the last time he moved because he was forced to leave in such a hurry.”
I was stunned. Why was this counselor was sharing this private information with me, a parent volunteer? It seemed unnecessary to embarrass the student in this way. But in a weird way, I’m grateful that she did. Until that moment it had never dawned on me that some of our students might be homeless. In the moment, I hurt for this young student who truthfully, looked no different than any other student in the building that day. His situation continued to weigh heavily on my heart all day. I kept thinking about him. What was his story? Where was he staying? Was he getting the necessary things he would need to start the school year off right? I had already taken my own son back-to-school shopping. What about this student? Was anyone making sure that his school year got off to a good start? Did any of the other students know? Where any of them aware of his situation? Was he ashamed? Embarrassed? Hungry? Sad? So many unanswered questions that tt still makes my heart hurt to think about it.
When I was a young reader, one of the many reasons that I was drawn to authors like Judy Blume was because her books covered topics that weren’t often seen in books for readers my age. C.H. Armstrong’s new book ROAM is that same kind of book. Tackling the issue of teen homelessness in a real and relatable way, Armstrong follows in the footsteps of authors like Blume who realize the importance of addressing uncomfortable topics that affect children and teens just as much as adults.
My first thought after finishing ROAM was, “I want my son to read this book.” I want every teenager I know to read this book. The main character Abby’s struggles are sad to read and eye-opening. They are also very true to life. Her attempts to remain a “regular” teenager – worrying about Homecoming, meeting a cute boy, applying to college – are shaded with the pains of homelessness and poverty. The topics are heavy but you are filled with hope that Abby would rise out of her situation with grace and perseverance. These are messages that any teenager in any situation would benefit from hearing.
(And as a side note, I absolutely loved Armstrong’s use of To Kill A Mockingbird throughout the story.) A big thank you to C.H. Armstrong, NetGalley, and Central Avenue Publishing for a preview copy of their wonderful book. I highly recommend!
ROAM by C.H. Armstrong
Published by Central Avenue Publishing, February 2019
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Where I read: on my Kindle
Stephenie’s Goodreads Rating: 4 out of 5 stars