If you’re looking for quality young adult literature, you can’t go wrong with Todd Strasser. While Can’t Get There From Here is one of my favorite books of his, he’s also the author of many popular titles including Give a Boy a Gun, Wish You Were Dead, and The Wave (which is a huge favorite among the kids in my Teen Advisory Group).
Full confession: I’m very bad at remembering two things in my booktalks. Specifically, I have trouble memorizing numbers and names. That’s why I try to use as few of them in my booktalks as I can. I wrote this booktalk the way that I did because I wanted to incorporate the unusual names of the teenagers who’d left their homes for various reasons and reinvented themselves when they started their lives on the streets. But when my adrenaline is up and my public speaking panic starts kicking in, sometimes I blank on those unique names. That’s when the first sentence of my booktalk transforms into “Maybe spends her nights hanging out with her friends …” instead. So if I have a lesson to share here, it’s that if you’re going to be booktalking, you always have to be ready to think on your feet and try to give a smooth and seamless presentation. And never let your audience know that your memorization skills aren’t as perfect as you’d like them to be.
Maybe spends her nights hanging out with Rainbow, Maggot, 2Moro, and Tears in front of the Good Life Deli. Not because they can afford to buy anything, because they can’t. They hang out in front of the deli because it’s the only place on the block that stays open at night … the only place where the light will protect them from getting rolled or cut or killed. There are lots of junkies and psychos out there, and they don’t like the light. Maybe and the others spend their time trying to get money … for food, for medicine, for clothes, for drugs. Some ways they make money, like begging on the street for change, are fairly safe. Other ways are much more dangerous – dangerous enough to kill them.
Living on the street takes its toll. Their friend Country Club was just found in an alley, dead of alcohol poisoning at the age of 22. He was one of the older ones. Most of these kids don’t expect to live past 18. Some of them don’t expect to make it to next week. Some of them are right.