Can't Get There From Here

( 69 )

Overview

Tired of being hungry, cold, and dirty from living on the streets of New York City with a tribe of other homeless teenagers who are dying, one by one, a girl named Maybe ponders her future and longs for someone to care about her.

Tired of being hungry, cold, and dirty from living on the streets of New York City with a tribe of other homeless teenagers who are dying, one by one, a girl named Maybe ponders her future and longs for ...

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Overview

Tired of being hungry, cold, and dirty from living on the streets of New York City with a tribe of other homeless teenagers who are dying, one by one, a girl named Maybe ponders her future and longs for someone to care about her.

Tired of being hungry, cold, and dirty from living on the streets of New York City with a tribe of other homeless teenagers who are dying, one by one, a girl named Maybe ponders her future and longs for someone to care about her.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Strasser powerfully lays out the desperate realities of living on the street."—Denver Post

"Gritty and harsh."—VOYA

"After reading this book, you'll feel as if you spent a few hours in the shoes of a homeless kid."—YM

Publishers Weekly
Strasser's (Give a Boy a Gun) largely bleak novel centers on a group of homeless teens attempting to survive on the streets of New York City during a frigid winter. Several don't make it, victims of alcohol poisoning, strangulation or suicide. Narrator Maybe (wont to answer questions with that noncommittal word) escaped from an abusive home to join what she calls "an asphalt tribe that roamed the streets searching for food and shelter." Maybe's character gradually comes into focus and, as it does, Strasser reveals her perception of the dead-end life around her. Musing on the pain that one of her foundering friends feels, Maybe concludes, "It was a pain from inside. The pain of this cold, hungry, dirty life where nobody cared whether you lived or died. Where you were not even a name." However, the author does not delineate many of the other street urchins' characters. This season's The Blue Mirror by Kathe Koja and Ineke Holtjwik's Asphalt Angels paint a more realistic picture of life on the streets and the ways in which homeless kids can be exploited by others and by each other. For Maybe and for Tears, a 12-year-old who left home when her mother refused to believe that the girl's stepfather was sexually abusing her, there are hopeful futures-thanks to the intervention of a caring librarian. But repetitive scenes and dialogue at times stall the pace of the narrative and weaken its impact. Ages 12-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
VOYA
This novel about runaway teens on the streets of New York, a group ignored by society, does not hold anything back. As the loosely knit band struggles to survive, a girl with the street name "Maybe" narrates the cruel realities of hunger, drug abuse, HIV, prostitution, and death. Displaying distinct personalities but dependent on one another for food, shelter, and money, each teen has fled intolerable abuse at home, evoking sympathy from readers. Throughout the book, scenes of begging, abuse, despair, and oddly, the freedom of life on the streets will grab readers and not let go. Maybe refuses help from adult authority but is drawn to the kindness of a public librarian, perhaps because they both have a splotchy skin disorder called vitiligo. News articles of anonymous teens found dead (readers are aware of the circumstances behind each death) expound the book's powerful message. Each runaway vehemently guards his or her identity, but tough postures are slowly peeled away, revealing the hurt of the child. Many adult characters are depicted as either overly helpful or extremely brutal. Librarian Anthony in particular rushes too fast to protect the teens, offering food and use of his office without logically reporting the situation to professionals. That aside, the book is gritty and harsh, and urban teens will love it, being drawn into the story from early on when a cop warns members of the tribe, "You don't have a chance." VOYA Codes 4Q 4P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2004, Simon & Schuster, 208p., Ages 12 to 18.
—Rollie Welch
Children's Literature
This dark, depressing, seemingly realistic look at a fictionalized group of runaways living on the streets of New York City opens with a quote by one of the characters, OG. "Here is where you are. There is where you want to be. But you can't get there from here." The runaways' story is told from the perspective of Maybe, who, along with the other homeless members of her makeshift street family (OG, Country Club, Jewel, 2Moro, Maggot, Rainbow and Tears) has been abused and rejected, tries to survive in a very dangerous world. One-page "rap sheets" on certain members of the group at the beginning of chapters foreshadow a desperate end. It is not all doom and gloom though; glimmers of light are found in a compassionate librarian and adult leaders of a group house. Maybe realizes at the conclusion of the book that OG's statement may have been wrong, and that maybe if you tried, you could get somewhere. This text does not contain foul language, but it does touch upon mature themes, such as sexual abuse, physical abuse, alcohol poisoning, suicide, drug use and prostitution. The author, a novelist for twenty-five years, has written many books for teenagers, including the award winning Give the Boy a Gun, which looks at school violence. Should be required reading for any child or grown up who ever contemplated running away from home. Recommended with caution for the younger end of the suggested age group because of mature thematic content. 2004 (orig. 1999), Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Ages 12 up.
—Cindy L. Carolan
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-A surrogate family of homeless teens lives on the streets of New York City, and the bleakness of their lives is clear early on when Country Club dies of "liver failure due to acute alcohol poisoning." His brief life is summarized in a one-page dossierlike format that immediately precedes the narrative description of his death. These clinical dossiers recur, like a premonition, as one by one this ragtag "family" disintegrates. But first, readers meet Maggot; Rainbow; beautiful, HIV-positive 2Moro; her club-hopping, sexually amorphous friend Jewel; the protagonist/narrator Maybe; and Tears, the newest, and, at 12 years of age, youngest member of the group. Gradually revealed are the physical and psychological scars that marked their paths to the police sweeps, illness, drugs, and destitution that litter their lives. Also made clear is the fact that these teens reject many offers of help, but find that the street looks better than the horrors from which they've fled. A kindly librarian, Anthony, becomes the hero, reuniting Tears with her grandparents and offering the possibility of a safe future to Maybe. While the events described in this cautionary tale are shocking, the language is not, making these all-too-real problems accessible to a wide readership. More sanitized than E. R. Frank's America (Atheneum, 2002), Han Nolan's Born Blue (Harcourt, 2001), or Adam Rapp's 33 Snowfish (Candlewick, 2003), this is nevertheless a powerful and disturbing look at the downward spiral of despair that remains too common for too many teens.-Joel Shoemaker, Southeast Junior High School, Iowa City, IA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
This gritty portrayal of the lives of homeless teenagers conveys the hopelessness of runaways and throwaway children with convincing realism. Fifteen-year-old "Maybe" lives with her friends on the streets of New York. They reject even the relative comfort of homeless shelters as they have rejected their own names, choosing street names such as Rainbow, Maggot, and Jewel. Maybe chooses freedom from all rules over any kind of security, but the story makes it clear that her total freedom ultimately leads to early death or slavery to adult predators. When she finally decides to try to help Tears, the 12-year-old newest member of her tribe, Maybe begins to find her own salvation. Strasser's vibrant prose plunges young readers into Maybe's hard life, all without the use of profanity. A very welcome addition to the slice-of-life genre in YA literature that may help to change some real lives. (Fiction. YA)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780689841705
  • Publisher: Simon Pulse
  • Publication date: 9/20/2005
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 198,737
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 4.20 (w) x 7.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Todd Strasser has written many critically acclaimed novels for adults, teenagers, and children, including the award-winning Can’t Get There from Here, Give a Boy a Gun, Boot Camp, If I Grow Up, Famous, and How I Created My Perfect Prom Date, which became the Fox feature film Drive Me Crazy. Todd lives in a suburb of New York and speaks frequently at schools. Visit him at ToddStrasser.com.

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Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE: NEW YEAR'S EVE

Maggot said we should go up to Times Square to watch the ball drop and pick some pockets, but we never got around to it. Instead we hung out in front of the Good Life Deli like we always did. Maggot, Rainbow, 2Moro, and me. A cold mist drifted out of the dark, the little droplets sparkling in the streetlights. Maggot and me sat under the awning of the newspaper stand on the corner. The damp matted down our hair. Black puddles dotted the street and steam rose like ghosts from the manhole covers. Rainbow sat cross-legged against the wall, loose strands of blond hair falling out of a blue wool cap, her head nodding almost down to her lap. 2Moro leaned against the streetlight with her arms crossed, not saying anything to anyone, just waiting for someone to say something to her.

It was one of those nights when there wasn't much traffic on the streets of New York. Most of the New Year's partiers were done with their stupid celebrations and back in the four-walled cells they called apartments. Prisoners of the system, Maggot said. Now, only the newspaper delivery trucks and taxis passed, their tires making squishy sounds on the wet, black pavement. Out here in the cold where we weren't walled in, we were free to go where we pleased.

"Guess the cops have the night off," Maggot said, his brown dreadlocks stringy from the mist; his breath a small cloud of fog.

"The rest of the world, too," muttered 2Moro. She was wearing a red-and-orange patchwork jacket, a tight black skirt, and high black boots. Her short dyed red hair was matted down on her forehead like a cap. The piercings in her ears and eyebrow and nose glinted in the streetlight. Tattooed around her neck was a circle of black barbed wire.

I sipped cold coffee from a paper cup. At night we drank coffee to stay awake. It was safer to sleep during the day.

A man and a woman came around the corner wearing raincoats and sharing a red umbrella. They slowed down when they saw us. The woman slid her arm through the man's and said something in his ear. Probably wanted him to turn around and go another way. But the man shook his head. Taking stiff strides, they walked toward us.

When they got near, the woman wrinkled her nose like something smelled bad.

"Have fun tonight?" Maggot asked, kind of menacing.

The couple broke stride. "Yes, we did," the man answered.

"No work tomorrow, huh?" Maggot said. "Get to sleep in."

"That's right."

"Day after that it's back to the old nine-to-five grind," Maggot said.

"You could say that," answered the man.

"Happy New Year," said 2Moro, not in a friendly way.

"Same to you," said the man. He and the woman hurried past. She kept glancing over her shoulder at us until they reached the next corner.

"Robots," Maggot said. "Just following the rules. Work till they die. Then new robots replace them."

"Check this." 2Moro tilted her head down the sidewalk. A man came toward us, unsteady, dragging the toes of his shoes. The shoulders of his suit were dark with water and his white shirt collar was open, a blue-and-red tie hanging like an upside down noose. His face was clean-shaven, and even though his wet hair fell flat on his forehead, you could see that it had been recently trimmed.

We watched as he stumbled along, not yet aware of us. When he passed under a streetlight, something gold glinted on his wrist and light reflected off his wet polished leather shoes.

"Come to daddy," Maggot whispered, cracking his knuckles.

From her seat against the wall Rainbow raised her head. "Oh, Maggot, you're so full of it. You never rolled a drunk in your life."

"People do it all the time. How hard could it be?"

"He's big," I said.

"The bigger they are, the harder they fall." Maggot rose to his feet. "He'll never know what hit him."

"Let's do it," said 2Moro. She crossed the sidewalk and joined Maggot in the shadow of the newsstand awning.

Rainbow pressed her hands against the ground and tried to push herself up. "Come on, Maybe. Time to get outta here." But she lost her grip and slid back down.

"Try again." I put my hands under the arms of her black leather jacket and helped her up. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the drunk guy a dozen yards away down the dark, wet sidewalk. He looked up, saw us, and stopped. I got Rainbow to her feet, turned her by the shoulders, and started to lead her away.

We were halfway down the block when the scuffle began. Maggot and 2Moro trying to wrestle the drunk down. Maggot pulling at the guy's jacket from the front. 2Moro hitting him from behind. Only the drunk didn't seem to get the idea. 2Moro and Maggot barely came up to his shoulders. He swung his arms and Maggot went down. Then he grabbed 2Moro and threw her so hard she disappeared between two parked cars. The drunk took a step, tripped over Maggot, and fell to his hands and knees. Maggot got up and jumped on his back. 2Moro came out from between the parked cars and started to kick the guy in the sides.

The guy yanked Maggot down to the sidewalk and straddled him. 2Moro was still kicking and hitting him, but the guy hardly seemed to notice. Pinned on his back under the drunk, Maggot flailed with open hands. The drunk slammed his fist into Maggot's face. Down the block Rainbow and me heard the crunching sound and saw Maggot go limp on the sidewalk. The drunk grabbed 2Moro by the wrist. She tried to shake free, but he wouldn't let go. He staggered to his feet and pulled his fist back like he was going to hit her next.

"Hey, don't!" I yelled and ran back toward them. I hated it when kids got hit. Got hit too many times myself. Not just with fists, neither.

Still holding 2Moro by the wrist, the drunk turned to look at me. I stopped a dozen feet away. "Please don't hurt her, Mister. Please?"

"They jumped me," the guy said.

"They're just kids. They didn't mean it."

"Didn't mean it? You crazy? They were kickin' and hittin' me. They wanted to rob me."

Maggot sat up on the sidewalk, hands covering his mouth and nose, dark red blood seeping out between his fingers. The drunk still had 2Moro by the wrist. She kept swinging, trying to hit him.

"Let me go!" she screeched.

"Let her go," I said. "She's just a girl. Please?"

"You kiddin' me? She's twice as bad as him." The drunk pointed at Maggot.

"Just let her go," I said. "I promise she won't hurt you."

"I'm gonna kill this pig!" 2Moro screamed, still clawing and scraping like a wild animal. The drunk twisted her arm tighter.

"Ow!" 2Moro yelped.

"You better stop," I told her, "or he's gonna hurt you bad."

2Moro stopped.

"If I let go, you gonna go quietly?" the drunk asked.

"Drop dead." 2Moro spit.

He yanked her arm up behind her back. 2Moro let out a squeal and went limp. "Okay, okay," she whimpered. The guy let go and 2Moro stumbled away, cradling her arm. The whole thing must have sobered the guy up, because he stood straighter and tightened the blue-and-red tie around his collar. He looked down at his suit. The knee was torn. "Look what you kids did."

"Sorry," I said.

"Sorry?" he repeated. "Your friends jump me and you're sorry?"

"They just wanted some money."

"Then they should've asked." He looked around. 2Moro was rubbing her sore arm. Maggot was sitting on the sidewalk, staring at the blood on his hands. Down the block Rainbow was leaning against another wall, her head and shoulders again dipping toward her waist.

"Just a bunch of punks out to roll some drunks on New Year's Eve," the guy grumbled in disgust.

"No kidding," Maggot muttered.

"Well, you picked the wrong drunk." The guy started to walk away through the mist. He reached into his pocket and tossed out a handful of loose change. As the coins clattered onto the sidewalk, he said, "Happy New Year."

Copyright © 2004 by Todd Strasser

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 69 )
Rating Distribution

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(50)

4 Star

(16)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 69 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 17, 2012

    Wow

    Very amazing

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2006

    Can't Get There From Here

    Todd Strasser, author of Can¿t Get There from Here, creates a very realistic experience of how it¿s like to be in the shoes of a homeless kid. In this fictional novel he powerfully expresses that life is full of choices and the ones you choose will determine the outcome of your future. Strasser descriptively illustrates the trials and everyday issues that these people go through. Throughout the book, the author used a type of background and history information layout that would normally be put into files. This was significant because it allowed the readers to know the previous records without having to tell every persons whole life story. These personal records were also a way of foreshadowing because they were in the beginning of a few chapters giving the readers hints of what were to happen. Strasser liked to chronologically arrange the events of the story, although in some parts, he also liked to flash back to previous times to bring more reason. In Can¿t Get There from Here, Todd Strasser wrote the entire book in first person. In doing that, it gave only one person¿s point of view and thoughts. Even though there was a narrator, Strasser still found a way of showing what other people were thinking and feeling through dialogue. The narrator of the story was the main character and seems to be very reliable. Not only did it give their own opinion on things but also was considerate and compassionate about the other characters. If the point of view would have changed, it would have an affect because it would have given the reader insight of what the other people in the story were thinking and also what they were going through. Throughout the novel, the author also used the reality and how drugs and alcohol can dramatically affect the lives of people. These were things that would happen everyday and what people would do and give just to satisfy themselves. Todd Strasser used literary elements such as irony, suspense and also hard-hitting realism to help make the story more interesting. An example of irony was when one of the characters went back to live a normal life after swearing they¿d never go back to their family. In the small group these kids called ¿family¿, they all had a reason to why they wanted to live on the streets and all thought they would never go back to where they came from. But to have one so committed and sure return, was very surprising to me. There were a lot of suspenseful times in the book that left me wanting to keep reading to see what would happen. For instance, when one of the kids lost their best friend mysteriously and during a life threatening situation, it kept me from putting the book down. This book contained a lot of hard-hitting realistic situations and possible things that are happening today all over the world. It fills me sadness and sympathy to all those who don¿t have a home and hold no value to their lives. I definitely recommend this book to readers that like a moving and heartfelt story.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 15, 2005

    A Teen's Viewpoint

    My daughter read this book because of my involvement with a organization called StandUp For Kids in Tampa Bay. She loved it, cried through it and in the end, said that this book convinced her that she never wants to end up on the streets - Highly recommended

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2004

    GREAT

    This was one of the best books i read. This shows that not every kid that is homeless is really bad like you have visions of people who do that. I would read it over and over if i could.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2004

    SO GOOD

    This is a great read.The character's seem so real.You get lost in the story and feel like your one with them.They make you laugh and cry.You will hate Bobby.Yet love Tears,Maybe,Maggot,Rainbow,Jewel OG and Pest.It makes you think twice about how we might view the homeless.Yet most it tugs at your heart.A wonderful Book

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2004

    Read it in One DAy!

    I finished this book in one day! I liked the characters. This book is addicting!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2004

    Very Real

    I was born and raised in New York and I've always heard of kids who hung out under the bridge and stuff, but after reading this book, you almost feel like you're one of the kids. Most people just ignore the homeless, writing them off as 'lazy' and saying things like 'Why don't they get jobs?' or 'Why don't they go back to their parents?'. After reading this book, you realize that not everyone has these options.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2004

    Wonderful

    this was a wonderful book. it was great from start to finish! A must read!!! I would give this more then 5 stars if i could!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2012

    Real and raw

    Great book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 26, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Maybe is a homeless teen trying to survive on the streets of New

    Maybe is a homeless teen trying to survive on the streets of New York
    City, the only constant in her life being the other homeless teens who
    are in the same boat as Maybe. A couple deaths occur amongst the group
    members and Maybe fears that may be her future. A kindly librarian
    offers clothing and a safe place to warm up, and even helps reunite one
    of Maybe’s friends with family members. Todd Strasser delivers a
    no-holds-barred look at life on the street through the eyes of a girl
    whose immediate goals are simply to find food and shelter. Outstanding.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 17, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Highly Recommended

    At the end of this book, it actually made me cry because of how real it is. It is absolutely amazing amd it never gets old, I love reading this book. Highly Recommended

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2008

    GREAT BOOK!

    This is a grest book! i read it twice and it is just a chain book! you could read it over and over! i recamend it to people all the time!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2006

    I love this book!

    It was so real. Heartbreaking. So very true. What went on in the book really happens. The kid's parents are pathetic. None of them care very much about their own kids. It really made me think about everything I have and how lucky I am. I'm so grateful I don't have a life like any of those kids. It was kind of weird that a guy wrote the book from a girls point of view. Surprisingly it worked well. Parts of it were really disgusting but thats what made it so real. I wished it told a little bit more in the end. The end was still good though. Bittersweet. The part at the beach was the happiest part in the whole book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2006

    Amazing

    This book is great, it is an easy read and kids realise what it is like when you run away and this author does not sugar coat. my mom even like this book

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2005

    i love this book !!!

    this book was so awsome and i totally love reading about this stuff. it just sucks me in !!! i totally recommend everyone reads this book asap !!! peace....

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2005

    HOLY CRAP

    This book was soo good! I really enjoyed it. I finished it in one night. I couldn't put this book down. I just wish it was longer.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2014

    Omg

    This book is the best book iv read so far ....omg!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2012

    Wonderful

    Exelent book wonderful details thrilled

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  • Posted June 13, 2012

    Great Book! It made you see life through a different view. Peopl

    Great Book! It made you see life through a different view. People who feel the way as some of these teens think, will realize how good life can be. It's a realistic book, which I love. You never know what's happening next. I couldn't put the book down until I finished. I recommend this book to a lot of people . Great Book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 4, 2011

    Amazing :)

    You must check this out
    Best book by Todd Strasser
    Good outlooked on how outside people feel

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 69 Customer Reviews

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