Because of you by Pip Harry
UQP, 2017. ISBN 9780702259777
(Age: 15+) Hope. Homelessness. LGBTIQ. Writing. Friendship. Relationships. Everyone has a story... and words can transform lives.
In this YA novel we meet Tiny, a homeless teen who is barely recognised or heard, except by her down and out (and often drunk) older companion, Zak. Her past choices have led her from love and family to destitution and the stench of a life of squalor and uncertainty, until Zak leads her to the Hope Lane Homeless Shelter. The other central character is Nola, who has her own struggles after her boyfriend ditches her because of her silence about her LGBTIQ parents. Nola is required to do school sanctioned Community Service, in order to meet HSC demands, and ends up at Hope Lane. These two teens are thrust together in the newly formed writing group led by Eddie, an intriguing assistant who has his own reasons for being there. At the writing group, the malodorous waft of the quirky attendees is an ever present indicator of their circumstances, but they all have a story to tell. Remarkably in this unusual environment there is opportunity for hope to grow, for relationships and friendships to develop and for both girls to find their place and their voice... and for a future to unfold.
Because of you demonstrates the power of a story to create empathy for those who don't fit... and will definitely open eyes to the plight of those who are homeless and extremely powerless. There are other issues touched on in the book - friendship dramas; school issues, particularly the school formal; teen pregnancy; death; forgiveness and lack of forgiveness; and psychological health. Although this seems an overwhelming number of topics or issues for one book, Pip Harry has knitted these deftly into a heart-warming story that is quite uplifting... and a little bit romantic. There is no didactic posture conveyed towards any of these issues, and teens will probably not notice that this gentle treatment of some weighty issues is unusual. The unfamiliar circumstances of Nola's LGBTIQ family and the impact of drugs and alcohol or mental health issues may mean that this book will not be suitable for every teen, and is probably not recommended for those under 15 or without an open perspective on complex life issues.