Seventeen year-old Abby Lunde and her family are living on the streets. They had a normal life back in Omaha, but thanks to her mother’s awful mistake, they had to leave what little they had behind for a new start in Rochester. Abby tries to be an average teenager—fitting into school, buoyed by dreams of a boyfriend, college, and a career in music. But Minnesota winters are unforgiving, and so are many teenagers.
Her stepdad promises to put a roof over their heads, but times are tough for everyone and Abby is doing everything she can to keep her shameful secret from her new friends. The divide between rich and poor in high school is painfully obvious, and the stress of never knowing where they’re sleeping or where they’ll find their next meal is taking its toll on the whole family.
As secrets are exposed and the hope for a home fades, Abby knows she must trust those around her to help. But will her friends let her down the same way they did back home, or will they rise to the challenge to help them find a normal life?
Roam tells the very important story of Abby Lunde, a homeless senior in high school. Homelessness among children is an issue that is too often swept under the rug and ignored, so it was absolutely wonderful to see a book highlighting it. I did have issues with a few things, and while this is definitely a story that needed to be told, the execution could have been better.
The characters that Armstrong brought to life were, for the most part, likeable and showed growth, which is something that is very important to me. Abby’s mom, a former teacher, had an affair with another school staff member which led to her losing her job. Because of the consequences this caused, Abby is absolutely horrible to her mom. At first I was put off, complaining to myself about how unrealistic Abby’s behavior was, but it got me thinking about different lifestyles and made me start an eye opening conversation on Twitter. I never would have gotten away with talking to one of my parents the way Abby did, and none of my friends would have either, but I learned that some teenagers really are like that. It was a great reminder that everybody is different and we are all going to react differently in intense situations.
This story does feature a gay side character which was great. There were a few cringy instances that I wish had been handled better and really shouldn’t have happened. When Abby finds out that Josh is gay, her reaction is to tell him that he doesn’t look gay. We are in 2019, it’s past time for us to be doing better and there really aren’t any excuses for this anymore. You can’t determine somebody’s sexuality based on how they look and the idea that you can should have been thrown in the garbage a long time ago. It was also incredibly disappointing to see the insensitivity that was given to the topic of mental illness. We really have to start doing better when it comes to mental health. It’s an illness just like any other, and people who suffer are not crazy. I also feel like Abby was suffering from PTSD after being there for a medical emergency her mom had, and I really wish it had been directly talked about more.
Armstrong did a fantastic job of showing what homeless kids go through, from the lack of sleep which affects school and how they have to handle relationships to the embarrassment and shame that they constantly carry around with them. Hopefully those that need Abby’s story will read it and feel less alone with their situation and know that things can and will get better and that they are just as deserving of love.
A digital ARC was provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.