Quiet, artistic sixth grader Emma O’Malley describes her beloved older brother Austin, a high school junior, as the guy “everyone paid attention to when he walked into a room.” So, when Austin urges Emma—who loves creating Joseph Cornell–inspired shadow boxes after seeing them at the Art Institute—to join the art club, she agrees, despite discouragement from her best friend Becca. Soon, Emma realizes she has more in common with art club members Kennedy, who is white, and Lucy, who is Asian, than with übersmart, book-loving Becca. But then Kennedy publicly humiliates Becca, and Emma’s parents reveal that Austin is addicted to opioids, which he’s been prescribed for a sports injury. While Austin undergoes treatment, Emma is sent from their home in the Boston suburbs to spend the summer with family friends in Wyoming. There, Emma befriends affable, curly brown–haired Tyler, whose mom is in prison for selling narcotics, while she grapples with anger and guilt. In this transparent examination of how addiction can affect families, Bishop (Things You Can’t Say) effectively showcases Emma’s realistic struggle to forgive her friends, her family, and herself; her turbulent emotions make her a relatable, authentic character. Ages 8–12. (Mar.)
"The two distinct halves of Bishop’s novel are securely harnessed, and the abrupt segue underscores the tailspin into which Em’s life has been thrown. The O’Malleys stay strong, though, and even though the book wisely eschews an unequivocal happy ending, there’s definitely light on their horizon."
A sensitively told and heartfelt story of Emma’s experience with her brother’s opioid addiction. Where We Used to Roam will help open up many difficult, but important conversations.
Where We Used to Roam is a sensitive and thought-provoking story about one girl’s efforts to navigate changing friendships, a brother’s addiction, and the ripple effect it has on the whole family. An important platform for difficult discussions that will leave a lasting imprint on your heart.
PRAISE FOR THINGS YOU CAN'T SAY
“A touching and believable story about the ways worries feed on each other, the difference that honesty makes to kids, and how much emotional growth a child...can experience in just a few weeks.” —Publishers Weekly
“A sensitive exploration of suicide, forgiveness, and the difficulty of navigating friendships.” —Booklist
"As Things You Can't Say shows the gaping fissures that loss and grief can cause in a kiddo's life, so too does it show how those same fissures may begin to heal and close. That we are rooting so hard for their closing in Andrew's life is a measure of how wonderfully real and honest this story is, and of how deep our need is for just the right words." Gary D. Schmidt, Newbery Honor Winner and National Book Award Finalist
"With grit and authenticity, Bishop takes us inside the head and heart of a young boy. Be prepared to laugh, cry, cheer, and turn the last page with a satisfying sigh." Barbara O'Connor, author of Wonderland
"This touching, authentic novel will open readers' eyes and hearts about mental health issues in loving, 'normal' families. Jenn Bishop explores a challenging subject with sensitivity and grace." Barbara Dee, author of Maybe He Just Likes You
"People who go away forever. People who come out of nowhere. People who drift away and then drift back. Three years after the death of his father, young Drew finds a way to make peace with all these sorts of people. An emotional tale of a boy who finds it takes equal measures of courage to move forward and to look back." Paul Mosier, author of Echo's Sister
A searingly poignant story of adaptation, resilience, and the kind of love that can guide us through our most difficult paths. Jenn Bishop beautifully balances heavy topics, like addiction, with more ordinary trials, like friends growing apart, weaving in threads of artistry and hope that carry the reader through the hardships Emma faces.
Gr 5–7—Emma, who lives in a Boston suburb with loving parents and her adored older brother Austin, is having a turbulent first year in middle school. She meets Kennedy and Lucy, fellow artists who have more in common with her than her oldest friend, Becca. Emma feels torn between these friendships and dismayed by her instinct to mock Becca to her new friends. Emma then learns that Austin has become addicted to opioids after surgery for a sports injury. Written in unadorned, straightforward prose, this is a sensitive and gentle portrayal of opioid addiction that focuses on Emma's rather than Austin's experience but stays true to hard realities: Austin overdoses (and survives) just as he is finishing rehab. Emma finds comfort in shared experience when she makes another new friend, Tyler, whose mother is incarcerated for drug dealing. Emma and her family are cued as white, as are the majority of characters. Becca is Jewish; a teacher has a South Asian last name; Kennedy has two moms; and Tyler is gay. When Tyler admits to a crush on a boy Emma reacts as a friend would, encouraging Tyler to approach him. This earnest and respectful attention to the joys and complications of friendships in middle school balances the story's harsher realities and, in the end, underlines the story's message that finding and maintaining solid friendships is an essential life skill. VERDICT This sensitive portrayal of drug addiction's effect on family members also pays significant attention to broader issues such as the growing pains of forming identities and forging new friendships in middle school; should appeal to a wide audience.—Lisa Goldstein, Brooklyn P.L.
Emma’s happy life starts to fall apart when her older brother is injured and prescribed opioid painkillers.
As sixth grade begins, Emma is excited to make new friends that really get her. While she navigates the pitfalls of new and old friendships, she also finds out that her brother, Austin, is addicted to opioids. Bishop combines a coming-of-age story with an issue story, creating a novel that teaches lessons without being preachy and honestly depicts the confusion, fear, and anger that arise when a sibling struggles with substance abuse. This book contains valuable lessons about both friendship and drug addiction, but they could bear to be stated more plainly. Much of Emma’s emotional growth is shown and not told, with the result that her later understanding, for example of her brother’s struggle, is not stated as clearly as her earlier feelings that he selfishly did not care about his family. While this may make the book more readable, depending on readers’ maturity and awareness, they may benefit from further discussing the issues with teachers or guardians. Though the story ends on a positive note, there is no unrealistically neat happy ending. The author instead offers a brief and engaging introduction to the disease model of addiction and the benefits of medication-assisted treatment. Main characters are cued as White.
An enjoyable book that is a starting point for young readers to understand the opioid crisis. (Fiction. 10-13)