If home is where the heart is, what would happen if you lost it? Compassion and humor infuse the story of a family caught in financial crisis and a girl struggling to form her own identity.
It’s the first day of summer and Rachel's thirteenth birthday. She can't wait to head to the lake with her best friend, Micah. But as summer unfolds, every day seems to get more complicated. Her “fun” new job taking care of the neighbors’ farm animals quickly becomes a challenge, whether she’s being pecked by chickens or having to dodge a charging pig at feeding time. At home, her parents are more worried about money than usual, and their arguments over bills intensify. Fortunately, Rachel can count on Micah to help her cope with all the stress. But Micah seems to want their relationship to go beyond friendship, and though Rachel almost wishes for that, too, she can’t force herself to feel “that way” about him. In fact, she isn’t sure she can feel that way about any boy — or what that means. With all the heart of her award-winning novel See You At Harry's, Jo Knowles brings us the story of a girl who must discover where her heart is and what that means for her future.
About the Author
Jo Knowles is the award-winning author of the young adult novels Lessons from a Dead Girl, Jumping Off Swings, and Read Between the Lines, among others. She has also written two middle-grade novels: Still a Work in Progress and See You at Harry’s. She lives in Vermont.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Life has been pretty easy for Rachel until recently. She and her friend Micah would spend hours biking and swimming. Rachel didn't even mind when her parents insisted that she take her little sister Ivy along. Unfortunately, Rachel's parents have been fighting lately. The subject of those fights is usually money. Her mother lost her job as a school librarian because of budget cuts, and her father's job as a realtor is not paying enough to keep the bills paid. When Rachel is offered a job by their new neighbors, she hopes to pitch in and help with the family's expenses. Taking care of a pig named Lucy, a baby steer named Ferdinand, plus chickens, horses, and a couple of goats turns out to be a fun way to earn some needed money. It isn't always easy, but Rachel loves the animals and knows people are counting on her. At least the job helps her keep her mind off the fact that Micah is suddenly interested in one of her friends, while Rachel struggles with her own sexual identity and her own attraction to another girl in her grade. When it becomes clear that the family money trouble is serious, Rachel realizes she will be leaving the house that has been HOME to her family for as long as she can remember. What will happen to their own family pets, her pony Rainbow and her sister's cat George? Will she still get to take care of the neighbors' animals, and will she still be friends with Micah? Author Jo Knowles has crafted a tale about family and friends and what home really means. Readers will easily relate to Rachel's struggles as she works to discover her true self and how that fits with being a good daughter, sister, and friend. WHERE THE HEART IS needs to have a place in every library and middle grade classroom.
WHERE THE HEART IS is an important book that kids and teens will definitely relate to. Jo Knowles handled a topic, not most adults will discuss with their kids. Rachel's parents are almost always arguing about finances and unpaid bills. As the story unfolds, it's easy to surmise that the family could hardly afford their basic needs, let alone their house mortgage, even with Rachel's summer job. Rachel is a very responsible young girl. She carries a huge weight on her shoulders at this early age, but she does it anyway. She cannot even focus on herself and understand her feelings about boys and girls -Why she wants to be best friends with Micah but doesn't like boys? And why can a girl give her hummingbird feelings? She cannot discuss it with her parents because she doesn't want to add to their worries. On top of that, she has her little sister, Ivy, to shield from all the pain their family is going through. This is a complex and rich coming-of-age-book. Both poverty and sexual orientations are sensitive matters and families need all the help and ideas so they can be more open about it. I recommend this book, especially for a classroom setting or book club discussion.
The dual strengths of this new book by Jo Knowles include her treatment of the basic issues of self identity and survival in the face of adversity and the writing style that Knowles chooses to portray these basic issues by truly capturing the feelings of adolescents in words and actions. Rachel, an endearing protagonist, portrays a young teen who realizes that she no longer wants to marry her “betrothed”, a neighbor boy to whom she promised her hand at the young age of six. Yet she is unable to voice her feelings about Micah to herself. This topic of self-realization is dealt with extraordinarily well, with sensitivity, by Knowles. At the same time that Rachel is attempting to convey her feelings to Micah and to herself, her parents face having to accept their financial plight and the potential foreclosure of their family home. There is a near perfection in the blend of these two conflicts, and only a skilled, caring writer could give Rachel a voice which is heartfelt. It is as if Knowles remembers all of the angst of growing up, then puts these feelings into pages of a book that will be widely read and savored by young teens. The characters are relatable and real. The plot moves forward with a blend of humor and grace. The messages are clear. Readers will want a sequel. Must Read Literature: K thru YA gives this book an excellent rating.