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Shelter by Christie Matheson

The Story

A heart-wrenching middle grade debut, SHELTER, considers homelessness from one girl’s perspective and explores deep truths about the resounding impact of empathy. Perfect for fans of One for the Murphys and Paper Things.

Fifth grade can be tough for anyone. There are cliques and mean kids and homework and surprise math tests. But after tragedy strikes her family, almost-eleven-year-old Maya has a painful secret that makes many days feel nearly impossible.

And today might be Maya’s toughest yet. Her family is on edge, she needs to travel alone across the city, a bully is out to get her, and Maya has to face this winter’s biggest rainstorm without a coat or an umbrella.

But even on the rainiest days, there’s hope that the sun will come out soon.

Emotional and compassionate, Shelter looks at homelessness through one girl’s eyes and explores the power of empathy, friendship, and love.

My Review: Shelter

One of the most pressing national crises of our time is homelessness and child poverty. It is a social issue that needs more awareness not only from a political standpoint, but also a humanistic one, empathy. From this lens young readers can glimpse into a day-in-the -life of someone who faces homelessness and understand what that looks and feels like.

It can begin the meaningful conversations parents and teachers can have with their children and students about what it means to be without a home.

For me, Shelter is a quick read, raising awareness around homelessness. Even though Matheson’s debut is one of import, as a reader, we cannot glance over the actually writing of the novel and seeing if we are fully invested in the story and its characters.

This is not to say I don’t think what is written isn’t important.

On the contrary, I think we need more books that help young people understand poverty and homelessness. But, again, it’s the execution of the writing that made this book difficult to read. How the author leaned too heavily on over explaining things and telling the reader what was going on rather than a fluid story of a child desperate for something more certain, more permanent.

More Thoughts

Interestingly, the author chose to have the time of when things happened throughout the day. Like a time stamp, Matheson listed from the beginning of the book to the end the time of Maya’s day. I wondered why the author chose to chronically order Maya’s day into hour-by-hour timed increments and why it was necessary along with how it added to the story? Perhaps it was to give the reader the feeling of how it’s like to live in the moment. When there is so much at risk of losing, including time. And that would be an interesting detail if not for the writing. How it feels too mechanical and this time stamping adds to that feeling.

Matheson also uses the mean girl trope. This super-villain who is privliedged and can get away with practically anything. I understood why Matheson used this trope, but I always feel this is problematic when the conniving behavior is used solely to bully a child who is living in poverty and not exploring anything more.

Sadly, that’s what the story lacks. With such a subject matter the expectation should have a depth that drives the senses into a flurry. The feeling of hunger, how a stomach feels empty. The ache growing to a point of pain. Exploring not at the surface what food scarcity means and how that affects children and their overall health and mental state of mind.

Last Thoughts

Believe me, I want Maya and her family to have a stable income and home. To be able to live a life outside of poverty. But I think the author did not effectively write a story that is as important and compelling as the subject matter warrants and deserves.

With relevant topics, Shelter, though brief, has a hopeful conclusion and is a starting point for young readers to begin thoughtful and purposeful conversations about homelessness.

Happy Reading ~ Cece

RATING: ink blotink blot – Adequately Inked

Photo Collage by Sheaf & Ink of Shelter

Publication Details

Pub DateISBNPage CountPublisherAge GroupSource & FormatReview Posted Online
12-Oct-21978-0593376386198Random House Books for Young ReadersMGNetGalley, Digital Copy & Finished CopyDecember 6, 2021

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