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Where I Live

Review

Where I Live

In Brenda Rufener’s book WHERE I LIVE, Linden Rose runs her life with special rules. Don’t fall asleep in class. Don’t carry too much. This is all so her classmates don’t find out her biggest secret --- that she’s homeless and living in her high school. She’s hid it pretty well so even her best friends --- Ham and Seung --- don’t know. She’s found a home with her best friends, spending as much time out of her “house” with them as possible. She’s also a journalist for the school’s blog, which gives her something to occupy her time and a ticket to college and a better future. Linden is happy with her life out of the spotlight and her maybe-relationship with Seung, but her routine get shaken up when ultra-popular Bea shows up to school with a busted lip. The violence hits too close to home, and forces Linden to re-evaluate her own past.

WHERE I LIVE covers very sensitive topics like domestic violence and homelessness. Told from a high schooler’s perspective, one who is trying to also navigate the more typical hardships of the SAT, relationships and bullying, makes the story feel more relatable and like it could happen to anyone (which it can). Rufener writes about how some things are hard to overcome and how much a toxic relationship can affect someone’s life. She was able to cover the subjects in a way that was not too much for an average teen to comprehend, while still being detailed enough for readers to fully grasp the characters’ plights.

"It opened my eyes to a lot of issues I don’t often find dealt with in books, issues that I don’t even normally think about. Rufener is able to properly address these topics with her audience, and even offers an optimistic ending."

I do wish Rufener included more in the story about Linden’s homelessness. Although it is a main part of the story and a defining characteristic for Linden, I feel like there could have been more written about the issues about being homeless. There are certain parts where Rufener really discusses some of the struggles Linden goes through, and I wish there could have been more because it really made me feel for Linden and all the other homeless out there.

WHERE I LIVE also had a lot of representation for readers who could be convinced by that (if they aren’t already convinced to read this book by the poignant topic and great dynamic characters and jokes and drama and the beautiful descriptions). There is a teacher and another main character that are openly gay. There is also a Korean-American main character. Another main character is known for being chubby, yet isn’t treated differently for it. Rufener does a fantastic job of writing a book about kids that could appear at any high school. The main characters weren’t popular, but they didn’t fall in to the typical stereotype of being total losers and they had friends in a wide variety of cliques. They also make the typical jokes you could expect from a high schooler, which made them feel even more personable, like I could meet them in the halls of my own high school.

Overall this book was very valuable. It was different than most books I read and I don’t regret reading it. It opened my eyes to a lot of issues I don’t often find dealt with in books, issues that I don’t even normally think about. Rufener is able to properly address these topics with her audience, and even offers an optimistic ending. She stresses the importance of a found family as well as the blood one, offering the promise of everything turning out okay.

Reviewed by Becky N., Teen Board Member on March 14, 2018

Where I Live
by Brenda Rufener