"Roam" - C.H. Armstrong

“Roam.” If you read no other part of this book, please at least read the final pages. It will create an awareness that will resonate long after you close the book, then close your eyes so that, in the dark, you can really see the impact of homelessness in our society.

An excruciatingly long, bitter road leads seventeen-year-old Abby Lunde, the main character of this book, to the realization that people can rise to the challenges presented through hard times and secrets held tight, as they try to forge new lives in the face of hopelessness when her family’s normal life is shattered, thanks to her mother’s awful mistake and a company closure where her stepdad was employed. Abby, her little sister, stepdad, and mom are forced to leave their home with only the possessions they can fit into an old van, drive far away from the city they’ve always known, and head into a sad, frightening life where finding a place to sleep or something to eat is elusive, and often not even possible.

Throughout the winter days of being homeless, Abby, enrolled in her new school, makes friends who seem to be genuine, but underneath her exterior of “normalcy” she lives in fear of her current life’s circumstances being discovered. Sure that her friends would abandon her if they knew she had no home and lived from day to day in a van, she desperately avoids any situation where she can be found out. Knowing the fickleness of human behavior firsthand from previous encounters, she lacks the trust needed to expose her life even to those closest to her. Sadly, that lack of trust is justified, as Abby finds out when one of her classmates vindictively exposes her homelessness to the entire high school on social media.

What she does not count on is the love, kindness, social acceptance, and the power of kind people to change a wrong perception when they come together, when her classmates immediately take a stand against cyberbullying with a text chain supporting Abby, thereby throwing a light switch to the “on” position and erasing the darkness surrounding her. As events unfold throughout this story of second chances, we find out how circumstances can change in one blinding moment, for anyone, anywhere and how none of us are really immune to the hazards of life.

In the spring, Abby will walk onto a stage during a school-hosted event which recognizes significant social issues impacting students, and begin with this truth: “My name is Abby Lunde, and until a few days before New Year’s, I was homeless. Today, I’m ready to tell you my story.” Looking out over the seated crowd, she pours out her heart with the words, “My shoes are dirty and worn through.”

An impactful story written by C.H. Armstrong, “Roam” is a must-read and can be found in the Young Adult Fiction section of the library.

-Debra, Roswell Public Library, New MexicoRoam