Theories of Relativity

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My fingers search the cardboard container, but I’ve finished the fries. I squirt ketchup on my fingers and lick it off. I’m never full. I think it was one of the reasons I had to leave, or, rather, my mother kicked me out. Jenna’s a runaway, but I’m a throwaway. Tossed out. Like garbage.

Keep your wits about you. Check your back.

Do what it takes to survive on the streets.

Dylan is living on the streets not ...

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Overview

My fingers search the cardboard container, but I’ve finished the fries. I squirt ketchup on my fingers and lick it off. I’m never full. I think it was one of the reasons I had to leave, or, rather, my mother kicked me out. Jenna’s a runaway, but I’m a throwaway. Tossed out. Like garbage.

Keep your wits about you. Check your back.

Do what it takes to survive on the streets.

Dylan is living on the streets not through any choice of his own, unlike some of the teenagers he meets in the same situation. He’s been cut loose by his unstable mother, and lost most contact with his two younger brothers. He has nothing but his backpack stuffed with a few precious belongings and the homeless kids he meets. At least he has his theories. No one can take those away from him. Like how every fourth person throws him spare change; how no one does anything for anyone without a price; and how he just might be able to find a place in this complicated world.

Disturbing, gritty, painful, hopeful—this is a story of a sixteen-year-old determined to survive against all odds.

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Editorial Reviews

VOYA
Dylan has theories about everything. Taking refuge in a library, he finds a book about Einstein, who like Dylan had theories. Dylan is a throwaway. His unstable mother kicked him out with nowhere to go. Life on the streets was all that was left. So he panhandles. He tries to avoid Vulture and his minions who prey on the weak and helpless. He tries to get by. He makes friends with runaway Jenna, sexually abused by her father; Twitch, who will do anything for a fix and a warm place to sleep; and Amber, pregnant and turning tricks to survive. He looks for his grandparents, runs into his long-lost father, tries to salvage Christmas for his two brothers, and ends up back on the street. Ainsley at the drop-in center and Glen try to help the kids. Dylan struggles, but he seems to have more determination than most. He just might make it. This gritty, slice-of-life novel from Canada is a page-turner. It will captivate both male and female readers. Characters are presented realistically, with no sugarcoating, as fully realized people. In Dylan, readers find a protagonist with innate goodness and beauty thrust into a dark and dangerous world. He is perceptive and resourceful, not willing to knuckle under to the bad hand that life dealt him. The language, although coarse at times, is for the most part appropriate to the situations. The novel is sure to be a hit with teens everywhere. Order multiple copies. You will need them. VOYA CODES: 4Q 5P S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Every YA (who reads) was dying to read it yesterday; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2005, Henry Holt, 231p., Ages 15 to 18.
—Mike Brown
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-Dylan Wallace, 16, lives on the streets of an unnamed Canadian city. His cruel, useless mother threw him out to make ready for her fourth man, whom she hopes to marry. The teen's only refuges are a youth center, a 24-hour doughnut shop, and the library. He keeps a biography of Einstein with him and tries to make sense of theories of time travel and black holes in the context of his own lack of "relatives." He tries to get a job, but he's too dirty to hire. He can either continue to panhandle or work the streets for Vulture, which Jenna, a sexually abused runaway, has been doing, first by begging, then by dealing and prostitution. When Dylan tries to get her away from the pimp, he is beaten and drugged. The prose is simple and direct, and the protagonist is a believable combination of bumbling and brave. As in Todd Strasser's Can't Get There from Here (S & S, 2004), the plot hinges on the drama of staying alive on the streets. While Strasser's narrator is flat and distant, Dylan's pain is acute and accessible. Long, bitterly cold nights set an appropriately bleak mood and remind readers of the protagonist's constant struggle to stay warm and fed. The use of Einstein's theories to mirror the isolation and inertia of street life feels forced and distracts from the considerable emotional impact of the narrative. This honest look at the desperation of teen homelessness is thought-provoking enough to spark discussion.-Johanna Lewis, New York Public Library Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Dylan has developed plenty of theories about his life on the streets: Every fourth person will give him money; no one gives him something for nothing; all relatives suck. Not that he's on the street by choice; his mom booted him out and he's never seen his father. Hanging out at the library and grabbing the first book within reach to make it look like he's there to read, Dylan becomes acquainted with Albert Einstein, who also had a number of theories. In the coming weeks, Dylan reads up on Einstein and, in a scene that would seem incongruous but that works perfectly to change pace and tone, he encounters Einstein in the library's washroom. Perched on the edge of a sink, Einstein challenges Dylan's theories and nudges Dylan toward a new theory of himself. Even if it was a pill-induced hallucinatory encounter, Dylan comes away with a resolve to make a small step for himself and is more open to the help some are ready to give. A beautifully written work on a gritty subject. (author's note) (Fiction. YA)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805077902
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
  • Publication date: 9/1/2005
  • Pages: 240
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.78 (w) x 8.48 (h) x 0.88 (d)

Meet the Author

Barbara Haworth-Attard is the author of many novels for young adults. About this book, Ms. Haworth-Attard says, “One morning I was walking past a storefront downtown and a boy, pale faced, eyes sporting purple rings of exhaustion, mumbled, ‘Do you have any change?’ From that moment, Dylan’s story began to take shape, a story of survival on any street in any city in the world.” Ms. Haworth-Attard lives in Canada.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2010

    I own this book.

    I have read this book twice!. and it was good to the point where I went out and bought it. it's a beautiful story about a boy who just wants to feel accepted it truly touched my heart in many ways. I reccomend this book to everyone it is definitely a good read.

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

    Posted January 29, 2009

    mmmm tasty

    This was an amazing book all the way through. The realism in it was fantastic,<BR/>The author does not hold back the truth of adolescence on the streets. Not to mention the other elements. Like the idea that homeless kids still get crushes, and even though it seems so minimal it is still part of their lives. Just because they are homeless does not mean they aren¿t human. The relation of drugs and the streets was so in depth. The author, Barbara Haworth-Attarddared¿s, ability to go to the dark ugly side, instead of focusing on the optimist point of view. It¿s not like a teenage boy in that position is going to be all smiles and sunshine. that¿s what makes it so amazing Haworth-Attarddared's willingness to forget about what people want to read and what will make them feel all warm and fuzzy inside. The fact that she is willing to reveal the truth makes it an amazing book. Its daring approach at revealing the not so beautiful, not so wonderful side of life makes people realize there¿s never a need to feel sorry for your self. Someone somewhere at some point has it worse than you. What it helped me to realize about my life was that I was spending far too much time in life feeling like life was not fair. When I read this book I decided I wouldn¿t let that be my life any more. It turned me into an optimist and i'm able to laugh things off a lot better now. This was literally a life changing book for me.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2008

    Simply Amazing!!

    This book is by far my favorite book ever! It made me laugh, it made me cry, I just didn't want to put it down. This is one of those books that makes you sad when it's finished, because it was enjoyable to read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 3, 2005

    Pretty good

    This book is everything that's expected of it. It faces and teaches us about all the dark ugliness of street life, it gives us the picture of humanity and adolescence, it shows us the delicate bonds between family and friends and strangers. It has a good plot and real people. But with almost everything going for it, one thing this book lacks is daring - it's not quite brave enough to really plunge us into the hell of homelessness, instead hovering above it at a risky but safe distance. As it is it's fine, but if it had taken just one step more, it would be an absolutely stunning book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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