I STAN Ellen Hopkins books so hard. They’re so well-done, they tackle SERIOUS issues in deft ways, and she’s not afraid to talk about her own experiences and the experiences of her family. Closer to Nowhere, her middle grade verse debut, is about two cousins who live together due to circumstances and the ways they come together and apart over the course of a few months. It’s inspired by one of the grandchildren Hopkins is raising, according to the author’s note, and it’s so well done! It’s like if Ellen Hopkins’ grit from YA got meshed perfectly with Erin Entrada Kelly. Good MG content but also doesn’t treat kids like they are dumb and talks about addiction and PTSD and child abuse and personal growth.
Cal lives with his Aunt Taryn, her husband Bruce, and their daughter Hannah because his mom died a few years ago and being raised by his father…didn’t go well, to say the least. Now his dad is in prison, but with a possible release date looming, Cal is nervous. He’s what most teachers would call a smart but troubled child–he loves books, learns quickly, but he can “snap” when pushed, he doesn’t follow rules well, and he’s not connecting with friends or his cousin, Hannah. Hannah’s a gymnast and dancer who dreams of the Olympics and loves her family life…until Cal comes into it. Now her parents are fighting more and her life is just getting more and more complicated. But as the novel progresses, we hear from both Hannah and Cal about their own experiences in the sixth grade as they learn about each other and themselves and the family situation gets…very tense.
This book deals with some big issues–PTSD, parental loss, parental incarceration, addiction, homelessness, and more–but because it’s Ellen Hopkins you know she does it deftly. She knows what she’s talking about, and I think she transitioned to Middle grade well with this book! It felt REAL for the 6th graders I know but I also really enjoyed reading it at my age! I think this’ll be a great addition to any classroom library and I hope it inspires more traditionally YA authors to explore MG and bring their deftness with hard issues to a younger audience that needs them too!
Closer to Nowhere is on sale wherever books are sold October 6, 2020.