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4.5 2
by Thalia Chaltas

Home is supposed to be a place you belong. It's supposed to be parents who are there and siblings who bug you and a life that feels comfortable. It's not supposed to be an absentee mother or a drowned sister. But that's Vera's reality, and she can't stand it anymore. So she runs. She ends up in an old mining town in the middle of the California desert. It's hot, it


Home is supposed to be a place you belong. It's supposed to be parents who are there and siblings who bug you and a life that feels comfortable. It's not supposed to be an absentee mother or a drowned sister. But that's Vera's reality, and she can't stand it anymore. So she runs. She ends up in an old mining town in the middle of the California desert. It's hot, it's dusty, and it's as isolated as Vera feels. As she goes about setting up her life, she also unwittingly starts the process of healing and-eventually- figuring out what home might really mean for her.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
An exploration of grief, guilt, and redemption, Chaltas's second novel in verse covers rocky terrain both physical and mental, as recent high school graduate Vera wrestles with the drowning death of her younger sister, Amy. Feeling abandoned by her disengaged, globe-trotting mother and cerebral older sister, Vera decamps for the desolate mining town of Garrett, which she discovers by accident. Despite Vera's abundant pain over Amy's death and her family's inability to prevent it, Chaltas (Because I Am Furniture) doesn't let it overwhelm her story, giving Vera a voice that flits between acerbic and self-deprecating, a passion for geology, and a lust interest in gorgeous, half-Hopi Lon, who provides Vera with part-time employment. As pared down as the desert landscape into which Vera immerses herself, Chaltas's verse regularly surprises with economically graceful descriptions that make her settings and characters come alive (of Lon: "And then/ that smile flashes on,/ Vegas neon, baby,/ so genuine it hurts"). A delicate suggestion of ghostly horror gives the novel further dimension, without distracting from the insights and truths Vera slowly unearths. Ages 12�up. (June)
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Struggling to cope with her grief over her sister's sudden death, Vera runs away to the desert mining town of Garrett. Soon after her arrival, she moves into an abandoned house and settles into a routine that includes doing odd jobs for Milo, a potter, and minor bookkeeping for Lon, a cute, half-Hopi to whom she feels an instant attraction. The 17-year-old also indulges in her passion for geology, going on long, sweaty rock-hunting hikes. All of these activities temporarily distract her from her pain, but at night, alone in her home (nicknamed "the Hovel"), she bitterly recalls the actions of her neglectful, absentee mother ("the Moth") and composes postcard messages to her older sister, Carole, in which she blames her for not preventing Amy's death. Vera buries the postcards under her bathroom floor, where they serve as a not-so-subtle metaphor for her own state of mind. Visions of her sister's ghost, as well as a tragic turn of events in Garrett, force Vera to confront her grief head-on. Using spare verse rife with emotional depth, Chaltas beautifully maps out Vera's journey from profound sadness to eventual redemption. Readers who appreciated Morgan Matson's Amy and Roger's Epic Detour (S & S, 2010) and Jandy Nelson's The Sky Is Everywhere (Dial, 2010) will pick this novel up in a heartbeat.—Lalitha Nataraj, Escondido Public Library, CA
Children's Literature - Kristy Kilfoyle
Vera is not your typical run-away. She is a science-minded high school graduate, who has left it all behind. To escape? To heal? At the outset, Vera herself seems unsure of her motive. When she steps off a cross-country bus and walks into the small desert town of Garrett, she encounters unique and extraordinary characters, other folks who seem to be hiding from something. Vera squats in one of the many abandoned homes on the outskirts of town and begins assisting Milo, a local potter, with his pieces. High-paying work with Lon, an attractive and unpredictable Native-American man leads to more trouble than its worth and their complicated relationship will intrigue readers. As the truth of Vera's family life is revealed bit by bit, the picture of her sadness comes into focus. Ultimately, life in the middle of nowhere cannot drive away the visions of Vera's recently deceased younger sister, Amy. Told in narrative verse, this original tale has a constant undercurrent of melancholy, but there is always the hope that Vera will allow herself to heal and forgive. It is a hard journey, but one worth taking. Recommended for reluctant readers or those dealing with grief. Reviewer: Kristy Kilfoyle
Kirkus Reviews

In first-person free verse with halting rhythm, 17-year-old Vera narrates her sojourn in a tiny desert town she's never seen and doesn't know.

Vera wants to be someplace unfamiliar, someplace that doesn't invoke her younger sister, who died in a drunken ocean swim, nor her older sister, who's tried to replace their absent mother but seems aloof, so she hitch hikes to the desert and gets out at Garrett, where "nobody knows me." Despite her obvious grief, Vera's voice doesn't easily inspire sympathy. In a mostly abandoned mining town characterized by "scraping-the-bean-can / unapologetic / starkness," Vera squats in a deserted house and scoffs at the two part-time jobs she finds ("It's certainly not what my once best friend Rob / would have called 'rocket surgery' "). Mercantile owner Tilly lisps, her pronunciations mercilessly spelled out: "He'th an artitht! / Bowlth, jugth, plateth, / thellth it all it all on the Internet." Vera crushes on Lon, a businessman whose Indian identity is frequently reiterated: "I glare at him, / leaning forward / having dumped the heaviest words / directly onto his black-feathered Native head." Lon doesn't live up to Vera's expectations ("Frickin' noncommunicating-handsome-half-Hopi," she stews), and the text casts him as bad guy; only Milo the ceramicist is truly likable here.

The verse's irregular, faltering beat matches Vera's defensive grief well, but Vera herself retains an unlikable air of entitlement even as she moves on from the desert and back into her real life.(Fiction. 12-15)

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 7.60(h) x 1.40(d)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

As a teenager Thalia Chaltas wanted to do everything, and she envied people who knew without question what their life goal was. Thalia did preliminary training to be a kinesiologist, a helicopter pilot, and a fire fighter, and has at times been a bus driver, a ropes course instructor, and a contralto in an a capella group. Along the way she has played lots of volleyball, written poetry, and collected children’s books. And eventually, that anvil fell from the sky and she realized writing was what all this previous intensive training was for.

She has kept every poem she has ever written – except one. Because she can’t find it.

Thalia lives in California with her daughter. Because I Am Furniture is her first novel.

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Displacement 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Heidi_G More than 1 year ago
Seventeen-year-old Vera leaves home in search of peace following the death of her younger sister, Amy. Her love of geology leads her to a small desert town where she meets the few folks who remain there including Lon, a half-Hopi man who piques her interest. Finding a box of unused postcards, she frequently selects one to be addressed to her absentee mother, whom she called “The Moth;” the postcards are not sent. Emotional trauma is a big point in this novel in verse as Vera refuses to contact Carole despite numerous phone messages and she thinks she sees Amy numerous times in the town. Some language might be problematic to younger teens.
Drama_MamaNH More than 1 year ago
I was lucky enough to get my hands on a pre-pub copy (promotional to booksellers and reviewers) of this novel in December. It is April and I still can't get the Death Valley desert sand out of my hair and out from under my finger nails! The author's words placed me smack in the middle of California Nowhere along with Vera, the main character. She is stubborn and persistent, which is how we get to know the odd group of people living in this desert outpost. The characters' unique voices linger with me. It is an amazingly sensory experience reading this novel. The best way to sum it up is to say, I feel as if I watched the movie. For the last four months I've found myself wondering what Vera is doing now, yet I just know she's doing well. This would be a great teaching tool for writing classes. Older adults will appreciate this novel, too. If you are one of those mom's, like me, who read's her teen daughter's novels and enjoys them, buy this for both of you! My sixteen year old daughter fell in love with Displacement before I could get my hands on her copy! On second thought, maybe you should buy two copies!