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BOOK REVIEWS, Contemporary Realistic Fiction, LOVELACE NOMINEE 2016-17, Middle Grade Readers, Young Adult Readers

ALMOST HOME by Nora Raleigh Baskin

Almost Home is the story of Leah Baer, a 12-year-old girl who has just recently come to live with her father and his new wife, Gail.  Leah’s father picked her up from summer camp and told her her mother (with whom she had been living when she left for camp) has moved to California and she will now be living with him and Gail.

Understandably, Leah is flooded with all kinds of questions and emotions.  Why has her mother left?  Why did she leave Leah behind?  The hurt and anger Leah feels in her mother’s rejection causes her to build a strong wall around herself in her father’s home.  She is on guard against appearing to need–or worse, want–anything.  Needing and wanting gives other people the power to hurt you.  Leah is not willing to give that kind of power to anyone ever again.

As Leah struggles to feel she belongs anywhere, she meets Will, a classmate who remembers her from second grade–before her parents divorced and she moved away with her mother.  Leah finds in Will an extraordinary friend who, although not afraid to be the unique individual he is, is also searching for a place to belong.  It is with Will’s encouragement that Leah both auditions for the school play and begins the frightening task of lowering her protective walls.

Leah’s voice is so achingly genuine in its hurt and anger and ultimate hopefulness in life that I found myself completely absorbed in her words as I was reading.  I could hear the twelve-year-old me speaking when she spoke and thinking the things that she thought.  This is a book that will ring true for all young people–and obviously, for those of us who have been young people.

This is the second incredible book I have read by Nora Baskin and I will defintely continue to seek out her work.  I recommend to anyone who enjoys Almost Home that they do the same!


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