by Heather Smith
PRH Canada Young Readers Penguin Teen. 2017. 256 pages. Young Adult.
It's Newfoundland, 1986. Fourteen-year-old Bun O'Keefe has lived a solitary life in an unsafe, unsanitary house. Her mother is a compulsive hoarder, and Bun has had little contact with the outside world. What she's learned about life comes from the random books and old VHS tapes that she finds in the boxes and bags her mother brings home. Bun and her mother rarely talk, so when Bun's mother tells Bun to leave one day, she does. Hitchhiking out of town, Bun ends up on the streets of St. John's, Newfoundland. Fortunately, the first person she meets is Busker Boy, a street musician who senses her naivety and takes her in. Together they live in a house with an eclectic cast of characters: Chef, a hotel dishwasher with culinary dreams; Cher, a drag queen with a tragic past; Big Eyes, a Catholic school girl desperately trying to reinvent herself; and The Landlord, a man who Bun is told to avoid at all cost. Through her experiences with her new roommates, and their sometimes tragic revelations, Bun learns that the world extends beyond the walls of her mother's house and discovers the joy of being part of a new family — a family of friends who care.
I read this book as an ebook on the Libby app.This book is listed as a Young Adult read, but the reader should be aware that it contains mature themes such as homophobia, prejudice, and child molestation. The book is filled with raw emotion and can be absolutely heartbreaking at times, but the extraordinary effort a family of misfits makes to care for an abandoned, emaciated teen provides some healing and warmth to the storyline. I would recommend this book to a reader who is aged 14 or older and is looking for a story with diverse, quirky characters, unique backstories, and fun pop culture references in addition to the mature themes previously listed.