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Monday, November 24, 2014

Caroline is a teenager who lives on the run with her dad. Her life is not as bad as you would think, and it is far worse.

Rock, Peter (2009)  My Abandonment  New York:  Houghton Mifflin.

Caroline and her father live in a cave in a forest preserve near Portland, Oregon.  Although they have no running water, no refrigeration, and no electronics, and although Caroline doesn't have a mother, doesn't go to school, has no friends, and must spend much of every day in hiding, she enjoys her life.  She has a toy horse named Randy, a garden to tend, and books to read.  She and her father go into town from time to time, visit a homeless encampment occasionally, and her father spends a lot of time teaching Caroline to survive and thrive in the woods, and in hiding. 
But when they are discovered and must go on the run, things change.  For a while they try to reenter society, and then go back on the run and back into hiding.  Life gets much harder, and Caroline soon finds herself having to make some very hard decisions, without her father there to guide her. 
The character of Caroline is distantly reminiscent of Katniss Everdeen of Hunger Games but whereas Katniss must deal with a manufactured survival situation  in a dystopian world of the future, Caroline lives utterly and completely in our world, in the here and now.  While Katniss sometimes uses almost superhuman endurance and abilities, Caroline is a remarkable hero because she is so real.
This novel has moments that are hard to read.  People die.  Dreams don't always work out.  And as a reader, you're not always sure that everything is going to work out in the end.  But in spite of all the struggling and heartbreak, this is a book of great hope (embodied largely in Caroline).
I think of this book being mostly suited for high school students, especially those who you think might really like the action of a series like Hunger Games, but who scoff at the fantasy of it.  It is also a book that I think has great potential to be taught in a literature class, so those of you who are teachers might check it out for that purpose.  I am not sure if it would work as a read-aloud, but that also might be worth a try.  It certainly has the suspense for it.  There is no significant male protagonist in the novel (besides the dad, and it may be difficult for male students to identify with him since he is certainly paranoid, perhaps has PTSD, and is not always likeable.)  But the action will hold male readers' attentions.
There is one gristly scene, but I don't think there is anything in here that would cause the book to be challenged.  If you don't mind a book that is sometimes more true than happy, check this one out.

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