Twelve-year-old Jeanne Ann has doubts when her mom spends their savings on an old orange van and bundles them off to San Francisco to chase Mom’s dream of working as a chef. There, they camp on the street while her mother looks for a job she never gets. Before long, Jeanne Ann realizes that this van is the closest thing she has to a home.
Across the road, twelve-year-old Cal watches the homeless community parked just beyond his big house. Cal’s mom is busy with the upscale restaurant she owns, but they’ve always been close–until Cal does something his mom just doesn’t understand.
Then Cal and Jeanne Ann meet. Cal is too tall and too weird and too rich and wears all his emotions on the outside of his skin, and he just wants to help. Jeanne Ann is smart, she is funny, she is stubborn–hers is a royal-looking chin, in
Cal’s opinion–and she does not want his help. But a quirky, meaningful friendship develops between them, and as it does, the pair is buoyed by a remarkable cast of nuanced, oddball characters, who let them down and lift them up. When Jeanne Ann’s situation worsens, though, and Cal’s desire to help gets the better of him, will their friendship survive? And without it, can either of them find their way through this mess?
I picked a very advance copy of this up at YALC, and I’m so glad I did! I spotted the gorgeous cover and quickly became intrigued by the synopsis, so I decided to check it out. What a charming and heartwarming read this turned out to be!
I have to say, I think this is the first YA/MG book I’ve read that fully centres around homelessness. It’s something I witness a lot in the city I live in, so unfortunately I have to admit is something I’ve become so accustomed to as it’s just part of everyday life. Sometimes it’s too easy to forget there are children like Jeanne Ann out there, and that’s why I found this book so intriguing.
This book was a love letter to San Francisco. It was a love letter to food (who doesn’t love reading about food?). And it was a love letter to books. I found Jeanne Ann such an interesting but lovable character who I related to easily due to her love of reading and the library. Over my life, I have spent many hours volunteering and stacking shelves in libraries, and I found myself sympathising with Jeanne Ann because of that.
Cal was such a sweet character. Having the alternate chapters of him being in a big house and trying to help Jeanne Ann without fully understanding her situation gave such a nice contrast between the chapters! They complimented each other really well as main characters.
The side characters were so great too. I loved the cast of people who lived in vans alongside Jeanne Ann, and then Cal’s family was so lovely too. They all had their own quirks which made them all interesting and unique!
Unfortunately this book wasn’t without it’s faults, however small, and I’m going to mention them here. Although I loved all of the characters, I sometimes couldn’t tell who was who. There was a kid in the book who I only realised was the same character as somebody else towards the end, because he kept being called by two separate names. That really confused me! Without going into too much detail, I also found the pacing slow in parts (maybe from pages 150-250ish), and took quite a dip in the middle.
However, I found myself speeding through most of this book due to the short chapters! My favourite part had to be the very end which made up for the pacing problems, as the scenes towards the end just warmed my heart. One of the most touching things for me was the constant love of food and love letter to food. It was so fun and entertaining to read about and made this stand out even more.
If you’re looking for a quirky, fun but also touching and heart wrenching Middle Grade read, check this out, due for release February 4th 2020!
4 out of 5 stars
May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽