Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 04 Feb 2019

Member Reviews

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. 


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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I want to thank Netgalley and the publisher for this arc in return for my honest review.

This was a well worth read, it had me engaged from the start to the end.

Please take the time and put this on your reading list, it will not disappoint.
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It's never easy being the "new girl" in town, now add to the mix that it's your Senior year, oh, and the fact that your family is living in a van in the Walmart parking lot. When Abby Lunde shows up on her first day of school all she wants is to be invisible to everyone around her, but when Zach, the big-man-on-campus, takes an interest in her, hiding in the shadows becomes nearly impossible. Can Abbey trust these new friends? How can she forgive her mom for putting their family in this situation? How much longer can Abby hide the truth from the people who are closest to her?

Roam is more than a coming of age story. Abby's voice paints a vivid picture of what it's like for many teens who don't know where they'll sleep each night, yet keep trying to fight through each day as if life were normal.
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Captivating, suspenseful, entertaining novel! This beautiful thriller kept me on the edge of my seat while I was reading it! Would highly recommend to those who enjoy this genre.
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2.5 stars rounded up to 3.*

I really wanted to love this book.  I love YA in general and the bold, brave way in which young authors are tackling difficult subjects with authenticity and fearlessness.  I was intrigued by the cover blurb, and had high hopes for how the story of a homeless teenager with secrets would be handled for a YA audience.  Sadly, I really felt like this one missed the mark.  

Roam is the story of Abby Lunde, a 17-year old student, who for reasons outside of her control and that the reader doesn't get to learn until about halfway through the book, is living in a van in a Rochester, MN Wal-Mart parking lot with her mother, her stepfather and her 6-year-old sister, Amber.  Having recently fled Omaha in shame due to a scandal of some sort (again, you have to hang on for a long time to get the story), the family is starting over in Rochester and Abby is transferring to begin her senior year in October at a new high school in a new town.

The premise is solid.  I appreciate how C.H. Armstrong deftly introduces the circumstances that lead to the Lundes living in the van, while not making it too cliche or too dramatic.  The family dynamic is believable and the characters are flawed in lovely, honest ways.  

The writing struck me as juvenile.  The entire storyline at the high school could have been characters from an ABC after-school special circa 1985 (just sub in cell phones and a gay supporting character for a skateboard and a minority back then).  The dynamic between Abby and her new friends is just too sweet and perfect, and the school villain character is over-the-top in the way of Sweet Valley High villains.

I'm not anti-happy endings.  In fact, I adore them when warranted.  But this story wrapped up all too sweetly with a perfect bow.  I would have liked to see just one of the many balls that Abby had up in the air not land perfectly.  

All that said, I didn't dislike the book and I admittedly stayed up late wanting to find out what would come of the Lundes.  I guess I just wish this one went deeper.
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Roam was absolutely amazing. It was the kind of book that will humble you really quick and make you incredibly grateful for everything you have. This book is great for teens to give an eye opening view of what it's like to experience hard times and being homeless as a high schooler. I love that Abby has strong supporters around her and a family who continually pushed to provide more and better for her.
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This is a great novel about a tough subject - homelessness, specifically how to deal with your whole family being homeless when you are still going to high school. That is the main story, but through the connections the characters make, the reader also learns about other, different versions of and reasons for homelessness, which was quite enlightening. However, that also lead to the whole book being a "lump in the throat"-moment as one realizes just how easily loosing one's home can happen. The book also explored the thoughtlessness of other the other characters, who take their abundance and wealth for granted and never even suspect the protagonist to be in the situation she is in. Aside from that topic, which was treated well, in depth and with great impact, the novel is basically a standard teenage romance. While it did not always have the most natural dialogue, I found the emotions of the characters to be very realistic. They were usually very levelheaded rather than falling prey to one misunderstanding after another, as is common in these kinds of books. Overall, it is a great recommendable read not only for young adults.
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Thinking back, I can't really recall any books that deal with this specific sort of homelessness. I've read or at least seen books about teenagers who run away, whose parents have died, about people who have decided to couch surf in order to move to a new place or are on the run from the law, and an assortment of other things.
Never have I seen a family deal with this struggle. Abby's is a senior in high school, her sister is in 1st grade, her mom is a teacher & her stepdad a mechanic. Even faced with homelessness, school is made a priority for the girls. This is a great thing for Abby, who gets the chance to start over somewhere new after her life fell apart at her own school.

There's a small mystery about what has caused Abby's family to be in this situation, and you get your answers but realize that isn't really important. This family deserves more than sleeping in their van.
Armstrong creates loveable characters right from the start. Abby is flawed, sure, she's anxious & often lets that get in the way of her relationships, she can have a short temper, and she tries to push people away. Then there's her little sister Amber, who refers to Abby as Sister (which I found a little stranger, but it is explained in the book) who complains she's hungry and cold but super social even to strangers, likes going to school (where she has a string of "boyfriends") and suffers quietly with shoes that are too small. Abby's parents are both emotionally vulnerable at points, but they're also undeniably good parents, they want Abby to achieve great things, they're truly proud of her, they're thankful for all the ways she helps them as they search desperately for jobs to get them out of the van.
This book also features a great cast of side character, they're not explored deeply, but this isn't their story. They support Abby's story as much as they support her as a person, that is to say, everyone Abby meets helps her in their own way. This was very moving & hopeful, it's the way I wish the world always was, and not just a select few.
Emotions run high for each and every character, but this wasn't a difficult read, everything felt like it was balanced very well. A heap of hope followed by the feeling of dread, unbeatable happiness paired with sadness & confusion.  It'll make you just want to wrap these character in a hug & give them everything they could possibly want.
There are quite a few flashback type passages & I found the transition to & from these to be a bit awkward, as well as the dialogue being a bit formal too. Also, I felt as though some things just worked out a little bit too perfectly, I was rooting for the characters & I saw their struggles but it did feel just a little manufactured. My biggest problem however, was that there was a gay character in this book, but his arc was kind of brushed aside and overlooked. Ultimately, this is what led me to give 4 stars instead of 5, though I don't feel that any of these hugely took away from the message this book sends.

I will say that I found this to be on the younger side of YA despite Abby's age. I felt that Abby, & by extension Abby's classmates to have an innocence that didn't quite ring true to life. It was quite refreshing though to read a book where the older teens weren't reduced to sexual & drug based arcs. This would have worked just as well if Abby was in 9th or 10th grade, but then we would have missed out on seeing Abby think of life after high school. So, all in all, I'm glad that the ages were kept as they were.
With that in mind, I would definitely recommend this to anyone that is interested in these real-life issues, it's handled very well & taken seriously.

Do you plan on reading Roam? Have you read a great book about homelessness? I'd love to hear from you!
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I found this to be such an eye opening book. Abby Lunde is a senior in high school who recently had her life completely altered. Following a series of unfortunate events, her family ends up homeless. Her mother, stepdad, and younger sister move from Omaha to Minnesota in search of a new start. I caught myself tearing up a few times just because of how realistic this story is. Abby his her homelessness so even her boyfriend and best friends didn't know. It just shows that you don't always know what someone is going through.
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2.5/5 stars

Roam is the story of Abby, a senior in high school, whose family has just moved to Rochester, Minnesota because of their recent homelessness. Abby's family endures many of the hardships many homeless families experience: living in a van, sneaking into Walmart for spongebaths, relying on free breakfast and lunch at school, walking everywhere, desperately trying to find jobs, and more. But there are some high points to Abby's new life. At her new school, she makes friends-- friends who are more compassionate, caring, and /friendly/ than her old friends in Omaha. Plus, she starts dating Zach, an uber-rich, uber-popular, star quarterback who also plays guitar and is super supportive. But homeless is wearing on Abby and her family. Will they ever get out of this rough spot? Will Abby be able to keep her new socio-economic status a secret from everyone at school? Will they ever be able to stop roaming and plant roots in a new home?

Roam is fast-paced, which makes it a good recommendation for reluctant readers. The chapters are short and the action never lets up. Even though Abby spends some time stuck in her own head with her anger, her hopelessness, her anxiety, the pace never slows down. Additionally, the empathy for homeless teens is overwhelming. This is not a topic that is often discussed in YA books, which makes it stand out. However, it hovers too close to didactic for my tastes. The neat bow at the end seals the deal that I won't be purchasing it for my YA collection. Rarely are such complicated issues as the poverty cycle ever neatly tied up with a bow. (See also: the treatment of depression in the filmic adaptation of Silver Linings Playbook.) 

Additionally, Abby bemoans more than once about how awful it is to not have friends, especially friends whom you thought were besties but then drop you like a hot potato when times get tough. And, as someone who quite literally didn't have friends from 6th-10th grade, the way Armstrong/Abby treats it is not realistic. I understand that not everyone will respond to not having friends the same way, but Armstrong makes it seem as though Abby is one in a million teens who doesn't have a friend, when it's actually not un-common. The friendless just don't cross paths (for whatever reason). I will now get off my soapbox before I get carried away. (TL;DR: Abby's situation of being "friendless" isn't unique, and Armstrong needed to have approached that to be make Abby's story contain more verisimilitude.)
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Roam  C. H. Armstrong

Roam follows the life of Abby Lunde. At seventeen-years-old, Abby is entering her senior year of High School. All is going according to plan, or, at least, it was. After her mother’s awful mistake, Abby’s family find themselves out of a house, living on the streets. Her stepfather decides to move them from Omaha to Rochester. After starting at her new school,  Abby tries desperately to be a normal teenager in their senior year. Though, as she soon comes to understand, it’s not easy being a homeless teenager. And it’s even harder to keep it from her new friends. As the year slowly comes to a close, Abby and her family are desperate to find a place to stay before the temperature drops. 

Living out of their van, Abby grapples with the day-to-day life and the stress that comes from being a senior. Blaming her mother for their situation, tensions run high in the limited space afforded by the van. Caught between the privileged lives of those at school and trying to outrun the unforgiving Minnesota winter, will Abby be able to keep her secret? Or will her past catch up with her?

Before I formally start this review, I want to state that I come from a position of  privilege and have never had to worry about keeping a roof over mine or my family’s heads. And though I can in no way relate to Abby, I am able to empathize and try to put myself in her shoes.

That being said, I found this book to be highly mediocre. It was enjoyable and I wanted to see how Abby would deal with her secret coming out, but it was very predictable and was full of textbook characters. Abby is your typical YA character that’s ‘pretty’ but certainly not beautiful who then falls for the sweet and kind, rich, popular hot guy at school with a psycho ex-girlfriend who wants nothing more than to make Abby’s life horrible. Though some characters had their defining ‘quirks’, such as Josh with his Disney inspired nicknames for everyone, and Abby’s  hidden talent for singing that an upbeat and somewhat ‘off-the-beaten-path’ teacher encourages her to audition for the school show, I found they were all fairly flat and two-dimensional.

With little mentions of her mother’s seizure, I was expecting some big blowup to come, but, again, it was fairly flat. Her mom had a seizure from mixing her antidepressants with alcohol and that was that. We simply moved on.

Abby has a constant fear that people, more importantly he friends, will find out she’s homeless and judge her for this. I found myself yelling at the book that if people will judge you for a situation that’s out of your control, then are they really your friends? Much less your boyfriend? It is sad that her trust is so frayed that she thinks if Zach were to find out that he’d ‘drop her in disgust’. Not only is that sad, but to have such low expectations from a guy that has done nothing but support you from the moment you met really doesn’t give Zach a good rep. He likes you, and from all that we the readers have seen, he is not the type to ‘drop you in disgust’. Even after declaring his love for her, her response is ‘No, you don’t.’ The guy is able to form thoughts and opinions on his own, he knows what he feels so don’t discount his declaration like that.

Overall, this book was simply good. Nothing surprised or shocked me, I find it to be a solid 3-star read and I could move through it easily and quickly. The final chapters were definitely what lifted this from a 2-star to a 3-star. Abby’s end speech was certainly very moving and cae from a place where there had once been anger but has now been tempered into peace. The message of this book is definitely very important and teaches a lesson that some sorely lack.

Thank you for granting me the opportunity to read this book and I hope you’ll consider me for any future work from this author.
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Loved this book! Some of the plot was a bit slow moving, which is why I have it four stars. I would definitely recommend this to any YA readers out there!
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Considering that this is a fictional read, it felt so realistic.

C.H. Armstrong has written a wonderful book that is raw, compelling and heartbreakingly.

To be honest, this book is beautifully written.

Highly recommend this book .
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Roam is a compelling, gritty, heart-wrenching book about a seventeen year old girl who is living on the streets with her family. The characters in this book are portrayed honestly and compassionately. This is a YA book that teenagers and adults alike will be able to relate to.
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This novel felt very real and raw, something that I look for in YA that deals with a strong issue, and this novel deals with the situation of homelessness in the life of a teenager incredibly well. It makes for a realistic read, with the rawness of the emotions coming across through the central character, Abby, through her tough time dealing with her family situation and the emotion she is feeling throughout this experience. I would recommend this novel to anyone really, the boundary of it being a YA novel is very subtle for myself, as I see this could be a read for anyone, due to the sensitive way that homelessness was handled.
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Armstrong delivers a powerful novel, encapsulating the very real and unfortunate emotions - and circumstances - of people in todays society. Constructing a heart-wrenching piece of work, this novel effortlessly builds before seamlessly, and astoundingly concluding.
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