Where I Live – Brenda Rufener – HarperTeen – Published 27 February 2018





1. Prevent the in-class nap.
2. Never carry too many belongings.
3. Avoid looking the part.

Her rules guarantee no one discovers her secret–that she’s homeless and living in the halls of her small-town high school. Her best friends, Ham and Seung, have formed a makeshift family, and writing for her school’s blog prevents downtime. When you’re homeless, free time sucks. Despite everything Linden’s burdened with, she holds on to hope for a future and a maybe romance with Seung.

But when cool-girl Bea comes to school with a bloody lip, the damage hits too close to home. Linden begins looking at Bea’s life, and soon her investigation prompts people to pay attention. And attention is the last thing Linden needs.

To put a stop to the violence, Linden must tell the story. Even if it breaks her rules for survival and jeopardizes the secrets she’s worked so hard to keep.

My thoughts

As expected, Where I Live is an incredibly powerful book. It snuck up on me and simply stole my breath away. In addition to raising the very needed and important topic of teen homelessness, Where I Live is a beautifully crafted novel that examines relationships in all their forms, and balances heartbreak with hope, offsetting challenges that knock you to your knees with the joy of living.

Linden is hiding in plain sight. Every day she handles a million tiny details to ensure that no one knows she is living in her high school, especially not her two best friends, Ham and Seung. Their love, banter, acceptance, and sometimes crazy schemes make the secrecy worth it. But when Linden starts to uncover the secret of a fellow classmate, sees abuse that is all-too reminiscent of her past, it begins to shake her already fragile world.

Where I Live dumps readers right into the middle of high school. I got a little lost at first, trying to figure out the ‘good’ guys from the not so nice kids. The cliques all blurred together at first. Ahhh. High school. But it soon becomes clear where friendship draws a clear line, while everyday interactions, bullying, and shared secrets blur others.

Much like in the other aspects of her life, as Linden narrates the story it feels as if she is constructing the story, shaping it slightly for her audience. I was just as confused about who Linden likes as she is, just as unsure about the truths that others have worked to hide. Once thing Linden isn’t unsure about is her love for her two friends, Ham and Seung. They are her world, the hold her up, and keep her afloat, even if they don’t realise it.

While there is romance, sweet, halting, stumbling romance, Where I Live is far more focused on relationships more generally. Romantic relationships, friendship, platonic relationships, hate, indifference, bare civility, abusive relationships. This book gives readers a relationship hexagon. As the six main players (I’m sorry, but the seventh, Beth, just really doesn’t count) interact – picking fights in school hallways, washing blood from lips in school bathrooms, planning epic revenge pranks, growing romantic feelings for their best friends, learning to share their stories – it reveals some glorious, messy, complicated relationships.

Hard-hitting, Where I Live doesn’t shy from giving the reader a few kicks to the gut, while also offering some really great fist-pump moments. It offers honesty and integrity in a story that is so important and such a pleasure to read.

The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.

More information

Category: Young adult fiction.

Genre: Contemporary.

Themes: Homelessness, abusive relationships, friendship, family, secrets, high school, teachers, LGBT.

Reading age guide: Ages 13 and up.

Advisory: Sexual references. Violence, references to physical abuse, murder, injury and death. Frequent coarse language, f*** (42), sh** (79), bit** (7), di** (3), as***** (14), pi** (14).

Published:  27 February 2018 by HarperTeen.

Format: Hardcover, ebook. 352 pages.


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