Roam

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 04 Feb 2019

Member Reviews

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for giving me an ARC in exchange for an honest review. 

Sweet YA story.
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This was a really sweet YA novel. I loved the take on homelessness, something not very represented in books. The plot and characters were very real and believable, and I just really enjoyed it.
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Just finished reading Roam and loved every minute of the book! The story centers around a homeless teenage girl and her family’s struggle to survive while keeping their situation hidden. A thought provoking and touching story. The author, C.H. Armstrong does an exceptional job in covering the difficulty of the homeless especially a young teen still in high school. The way the author handles such a tough subject is right on. I was instantly drawn into the world of Abby Lunde, her family, and circle of friends., I read this book in one day as I could not put it down until it was finished.

I would like to thank NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.
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This book was written in a very real and honest way. It showcased some of the realities not only teens have to face when dealing with being homeless but also with adults. I thought the plot, writing, and characterizations were really nice and realistic.
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Abby is homeless living in her mum's truck after a scandal involving her mum at their last school where her mum was a math teacher.



On her first day she meets Josh and his bunch of girl friends he ironically nicknames Disney characters after they are lookalikes.



She also meets Zach, a hot guy she falls for only to make an enemy of his jealous ex girlfriend Trish who takes an instant dislike to Abby.



As Abby and her family live in their van, we see the trials they face from sleeping in it in the perishing cold weather, begging for money on the street, washing and using public shop bathrooms and having to rely on salvation army food and church food donations too as well as in desperation after being ill the family find themselves squatting too.



The book shows how normal families can fall into poverty and not even have a home nor money for basic supplies we all have a right to for survival. We see the dangerous effects of sleeping out in the cold as they become ill and especially how it can take a toll emotionally on the whole family not just the children in the family either. Realistic, moving and tragically hopeful too.



Many thanks to the publishers for allowing me to review this book for them!
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“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.“ To kill a mockingbird by Harper Lee

Surviving high school is tough. Navigating the politics of the classroom and lunch room is hard enough, and joining a new school part way through even harder. Consider then that you move to a new school when you are homeless and living out of a van with your little sister and mum and dad. Welcome to Abby’s new life. 

The book gently unfolds how Abby and her family find themselves in this situation. Abby’s mum was a teacher and had an affair with a colleague, which was discovered and made very public. At the same time that Abby’s mum loses her job for her indiscretion, her father is made redundant when his employer goes bankrupt. Sometimes you can be just a few paychecks from poverty. When that income stream is lost, savings can quickly be eroded. And then things get really bad. 

Without family or other support, Abby and her family move north to Minnesota to make a new start there. While the children go to school in the day, the parents look for jobs and hunt out what help they can from the community. For supper they go to the Salvation Army soup kitchen and in the weekend the church hosts a similar lunch, but rather than making them feel needy and helpless, the church lunch makes them feel like guests and offers more support. This for me was an important distinction: when these people have already lost everything, the church lunch helped them to keep or regain their dignity. 

Abby has to work hard to keep up the pretence that she has a normal home life (indeed, a home). She meets some new friends who are warm and welcoming, and well-to-do. The contrast between what they have and how they live is stark with Abby’s reality. She struggles with their easily given generosity, but when she sees that it isn’t just directed at her, that they share things with each other, she is gracious in accepting. 

But how long can she maintain the pretence? And will her world come crashing down again if anyone finds out? 

This book was touching and thought-provoking without becoming schmaltzy. It has the classic theme of trying to endure high school with the elevated emotion and worries of a person struggling with abject poverty. 

After reading the book I did some research. Recent statistics in the U.K. state that 80,000 families (including 120,000 children) are homeless in the U.K. They will be housed in temporary accommodation, often a B&B, but without any security as to how long they can stay. Approximately half of these families have working parents, but they can not escape their circumstances because of the high cost of private rents, the freeze in housing benefit and the scarcity of social housing. The book has made me ask myself, how can I do more?
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I don't know where to begin. This was a 5 star read. It had a few cliches (a smidge of insta-love and super dramatic and cliche drama of high school) but the overall message and meaning is so important. I would love to hear that this book has become mandatory reading in middle and high schools. Important inside perspectives on homelessness, bullying/cyberbullying, and so many characters learning to forgive are very important.

This book hit me very close to home. To think of this book being read and more people understanding homelessness, volunteering, donating, and giving to charities is so special and fills me with hope. This book is a call to action with no preachiness, but if you leave from reading this book and don't feel a call to action, I don't know what to tell you.

The character's were awesome even if cliche.
Cliches: instalove, Zach being nearly perfect, Trish being the cliche evil popular girl, [the entire school banding together to go against Trish for her bullying/cyberbullying
The great parts about the characters: Zach is the definition of a great (although nearly too perfect) guy. Abby's friends Tera, Wendy and Josh are the perfect friends to have.
There are discussion guide questions in the back of the book so this would be perfect for a bookclub or (yes I'm saying it again!) homework assignment for schools.
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Roam is a thoroughly moving book on the homelessness issue and for that alone I do think it's worth adding to your YA shelves. Abby's story illustrates just how fine the line is between "doing ok" and "everything is a disaster piled on a disaster", something we could all do with recognising. There is such snobbery about poverty and Armstrong illustrates very clearly how one lapse of judgement can turn a whole family upside down.


Unfortunately there are two issues that bug me, and they're common YA tropes - the insta-friends, and the instalove. I just didn't find it realistic at all and it really upset the balance of the story, to the point that the inevitable "saved by Prince Charming" ending was a bit of a let-down.
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Thankyou to NetGalley, the publishers and the author, C.H Armstrong, for the opportunity to read a digital copy of Roam in exchange for an honest and unbiased opinion.
This book is a very powerful and compelling read. The storyline was well thought out and written. Very emotive.
Worth a read.
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I received this book in exchange for an honest review, this has not altered my opinion of the book.

This book really surprised me, I read it in one sitting. It made me cry, and I'm not a cryer.  However, this book tugged at my heartstrings and the ending really is worth the read, in my opinion.

While this story does follow the stereotypical formula that the majority of ya contemporary books follow, it really seemed to be a bonus in the end. While I knew what was basically going to happen all of the time during each main scene, I have never read a book where the main character is a homeless teen. I haven't read a book where there were such difficult family dynamics and such a focus on the fact that things happen and sometimes there isn't a way to avoid a confrontation. This book talked about the importance of talking to everyone as well as being open with your family and working through problems.

This book had a few tropes that did get to me, but I understand how they furthered the plot. For instance, there was insta-love, there was a gay best friend, there was the love interest's ex-girlfriend was not nice. However, These points furthered the story itself, and Josh is my favorite person. The plot surprised me and I'm so glad to have read a ya book that talks in such detail about the struggles this family goes through as they try to get back on their feet.

I can't give this book anything other than a 5 out of 5 because while there were tropes, they were used in a way that furthered the story and didn't cause it to be more drawn out. I'm glad that this book talks about something as difficult as homelessness and how that can affect you and those around you. Go read it!
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This book made me think. There are plenty of Americans in similar situations to Abby and her family. Imagine being in high school and homeless? Trying so hard to fake it and not let anyone know the truth- that you have no idea where you will spend the next night. That is Abby's reality. And it is heartbreaking. 

C.H. Armstrong gives us a glimpse into what many American's are one bad day away from- homelessness. 

4/5 stars

**I received a copy of this book, from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review**
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What a though provoking read  - an interesting topic that I don't think I've read about before. Well developed characters that I felt completely invested in.
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When I was a young reader, one of the many reasons that I was drawn to authors like Judy Blume was because her books covered topics that weren't seen in books for readers my age. C.H. Armstrong's new book ROAM is that same kind of book. Tackling the issue of teen homelessness in a real and relatable way, Armstrong follows in the footsteps of authors like Blume who realize the importance of addressing uncomfortable topics that affect children and teens just as much as adults.

My first thought after finishing ROAM was, "I want my son to read this book." I want every teenager I know to read this book. The main character Abby's struggles are sad to read and eye-opening. They are also very true to life. Her attempts to remain a "regular" teenager - worrying about Homecoming, meeting a cute boy, applying to college - are shaded with the pains of homelessness and poverty. The topics are heavy but you are filled with hope that Abby would rise out of her situation with grace and perseverance. These are messages that any teenager in any situation would benefit from hearing.

(And as a side note,  I absolutely loved Armstrong's use of To Kill A Mockingbird throughout the story.) I highly recommend!
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I am a  “one sitting reader”, I normally will finish a book within a day of starting it, not this one.  I would read for a while and need to think about about Abby and her life.  Roam should be required reading!  Eye opening and thought provoking!  
Thank you NetGalley for the opportunity to read for a fair review and thank you CH Armstrong!
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What an incredible book thank you for the opportunity to read this and pass it on to my son. It is said That the majority of people are only one pay check away from homelessness. When you think of homelessness you do tend to think of people bring on their own not whole families particularly in the uk where we have a (slightly) better support system to provide social housing. This is a fantastic YA novel and would make a great teen book club choice for boys and girls.
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Seventeen-year-old Abby and her family have been left homeless because of a mistake made by her mother. They are forced to move to a new town, live in their car until a temporary shelter comes available, and to eat their infrequent meals at the local church. It also means changing schools for Abby and her sister but, even though she'll know nobody, at least they won't know about what her mother did. Maybe things won't be so bad after all.

I have mixed feelings about Roam by C.H. Armstrong. On the plus side. I appreciate how she treated homelessness. It is an issue that rarely gets positive treatment despite the fact that it is becoming all too common for too many people through no fault of their own. On the other side, though, the story is a bit too unrealistic for the topic - within a couple of days of arriving at her new school, Abby makes some very close (and rich) friends who are willing to accept her immediately while never asking her about her background; starts dating the extremely rich and handsome star quarterback, and is picked by the teacher to be the solo singer for the choir. Not to say I didn't enjoy but it just seemed a bit one dimensional given the issues involved. Still, I am not the target audience of the story and I suspect, after reading other reviews, that it will work much better with young readers. 

3.5

Thanks to Netgalley and Central Publishing for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review
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This ended up being a DNF for me. Not only could I not connect to the characters, the writing was also incredibly choppy.
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I first fell in love with C.H. Armstrong’s writing with her novel The Edge of Nowhere and so was very excited to read her young adult contemporary novel Roam. While the characters and setting are very reminiscent of a lot of other young adult contemporaries, C.H. Armstrong turns them on their head and add a new layer to them, one which I have not seen anywhere else in this genre.

Roam is a book about homelessness. It follows a teenager Abby Lunde as she must deal with the stress of a new town and new school with the added complexity that her family has been forced from their home and are now living in the back of a van. It follows Abby as she navigates her feelings towards her family (particularly her mother who she blames for the situation) her fear of her new school and friends finding out, as well as her own internalized opinions of the homeless and how that impacts her own reactions and feelings.

All of this is woven beautifully throughout the story and Abby’s growth feels perfectly natural. Indeed, each of the characters in this book felt like they came alive as I read and I really enjoyed that each one was flawed in their own way but ended up rising above those flaws and coming together at the end. The family dynamics were also a delight to read, particularly Abby’s interactions with her sister (who, in my opinion, was the breakout star of the book).

I appreciate C.H. Armstrong’s decision to write a book about homelessness, and that it was done in a way that is accessible to a lot of people, particularly young adults who may find themselves in a similar situation, and in a way that was respectful. It challenges preconceptions about the homeless and was an entertaining story as well. Roam is definitely a book which should be kept in libraries everywhere.
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As homelessness, especially for young people, becomes so much more impactful  in today's world, this story of never giving up is essential reading!
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4 - 4.25 stars
I received a free ARC from Netgalley in exchange for a honest review.

This was a really wonderful story that showcases the hardships of homelessness, the importance of never giving up, and the positives that having certain people in our lives while going through any hardships. The author, C.H. Armstrong, took a look at homelessness through the eyes of a 17 year old girl named Abby Lunde. Due to circumstances beyond her control, she, her mom (Claire), stepdad (Nick), and 6 year old sister (Amber) move from Omaha, Nebraska to Rochester, Minnesota in hopes of starting a new life. Things are fraught between mother and daughter because of events that have scarred Abby (and possibly given her PTSD). The distant relationship is explained through flashbacks and help explain many major plot points in the book. It amazes me how Ms. Armstrong used a classic novel, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee to show how forgiveness while hard can be exactly what a person needs fo a better life. Starting a new school is hard, especially when you make an enemy on your first day, but when you find the right people it makes things easier on Abby to forget the hardships that living in a van during the winter in Minnesota can entail. Abby finds a secret talent she never knew she had, love, and some wonderful mentors while at school, but she refuses to let anyone know she doesn't have a home as she's certain it will lead to her being severely bullied. Eventually, the secret of her being homeless comes out leading to characters being tested on how strong the relationships among schoolmates and family are. There were so many moments that I enjoyed about this story but the characters have to be the major ones. They were just delightful and I didn't dislike anyone except the enemy of the main character.

As much as I enjoyed this story there were downsides to this novel. Most Young Adult stories follow certain formulas and this one definitely follows them. Overall, I don't mind the formulas if they're well-written and explained. What are the odds that the quarterback of the football team who is the hottest, most popular, and thoughtful boy in school is the first person you meet and he falls instantly for you? Pretty slim but I admit I loved this character with Abby, so I can say the coincidence of him being an office aid when you arrive at the school is fine. Heck even finding the most understanding people in the entire school through a class and lunch are understandable as kids tend to find a pack and stick with them on their first day of school.

One example of a coincidence that could have been written better/earlier in the book deals with Nick. During one of Abby's flashbacks is when Abby spies her mom crying while her stepdad comforts her. (view spoiler) This secret is never mentioned by anyone in the book and explains why the family moved out of state. I had thought it was because they wanted the State of Nebraska to have a hard time finding them to pay off their debt for about 3/4ths of the book. If this had been a reveal about the character that nobody knew or stated earlier in the story then it would have explained a lot about Abby and Nick's relationship. Abby loves and respects her stepdad's opinion and choices, but most of the time we are lead to believe it's due to her being terrified she'll be left all alone with her mom. Finding out why he's so familiar with the Rochester area would explain why she doesn't question him in what he suggests where the family go and do to survive. It would have added a deeper aspect to their relationship, and explain another reason why she's so mad at her mom.

I highly recommend this Young Adult book to anyone who enjoys pretty realistic looks on difficult subjects. Roam by C.H. Armstrong isn't a perfect book but it's one I think many people will enjoy. I'll definitely be on the lookout for other books written by this author as she comes out with more.
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