Wednesday, January 18, 2023

The In-Between

Winget, Katie. The In-Between
January 17th 2023 by Aladdin
E ARC provided by Netgalley

When Katie and her family return to their apartment from a funeral, they find that the landlord hasn't fed the fish, which have died, or taken the cat out of her carrier. Angered, her mother throws the fish tank down the steps, and the family pack up their few belongings and take off. With the help of a family friend, they end up in an extended stay hotel. Katie's mother has a history of difficulty in keeping jobs, and the parents divorce was very bitter, especially when it came to custody of Katie and her younger siblings, Josh and Haley. Their father (who is white; their mother is black) lives with his new wife, Ning, a little distance away, in a nice house with spare rooms, and the children do go to visit him on the weekends. Katie wishes that they could live with him, instead of in the cramped hotel room, but her mother is afraid she would not be able to hold onto them. Living in a hotel has a lot of problems, and Katie is afraid when she gets a notice at school that proof of residence can be required at any time, since her mother now drives her some distance back to their school because the family is no longer in district. Katie struggles with school while dealing with the difficult living arrangements and the tension between her parents. 
Strengths: There are a lot of my students who have to deal with parents who have trouble keeping jobs, are struggling with custody arrangements, or who are housing insecure, so it's good to see this reflected in the literature. Katie understands logically why her family is in the situation it is, but obviously can't quite comes to terms with this insecurity emotionally. She hopes that things will get better, and has some positive influences in her life, and also tries to make things a little better for her younger brother and sister. Aside from Baptiste's Isaiah Dunn is My Hero, I can't think of another book that depicts a family living in a hotel, although there are a decent number of middle grade books depicting life in homeless shelters. 
Weaknesses: This sounded like it might have been semi-autobiographical, since the setting seemed to be just post 9/11 and the characters have names similar to the author's family in the end notes. I would have liked more details about living in the hotel (like Nielsen's 2018 No Fixed Address) but can understand why the author focused on the emotions rather than the experience. 
What I really think: This might be popular with readers who enjoyed Hopkins' Closer to Nowhere or Lowell's 2022 The Road to After which are also a problem novels in verse.
 Ms. Yingling

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