Title: The Homecoming by Stacie Ramey
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
A new, emotional novel from Stacie Ramey, the author of The Sister Pact
They say you can never go home-and John’s about to find out just how true that is.
John’s mother kicked him out of the house when she couldn’t handle his anger, and John’s spent the last few years bouncing between relatives. But after his last scrape with the law, there’s nowhere for him to go but home.
Starting senior year at a new high school and fitting into the family that shut him out is a challenge. And it’s all that John can do to keep from turning back to bad habits. Lacrosse training helps him focus. As does Emily, the girl next door. She’s sweet and smart, and makes him think his heart may finally be healing. Maybe he’s ready to trust again. But tragedy has a way of finding John, and he must decide between saving his family or saving himself.
The Homecoming by Stacie Ramey is an emotional young adult novel that deals with some difficult subject matter such as drug and alcohol abuse and less directly, teen suicide. It is a true to life, captivating novel of healing that I recommend to older teen and adult readers due to some of the content.
After a tragic accident years earlier left John Strickland’s brother Ryan with severe brain damage, his family gradually fell apart. John’s parents divorced after months of fighting over their son’s treatment plan. Due to his out of control, violent outbursts, John was eventually sent to live with his father whose frequent business trips and long hours left plenty of time for John to cope with his problems with pot and alcohol. As a condition of his probation, he must move back in with mom, Ryan and little sister Livy and submit to random drug tests and attend counseling sessions. His unresolved guilt and anger over Ryan’s accident and its aftermath continue to eat away at him and although he has plenty of support from teachers, counselors and next door neighbor, Emily, John continues to turn to drugs and alcohol to numb his out of control emotions. In the aftermath of another accident, will John finally give voice to the emotions that are slowly but surely destroying him and his relationships?
John is an angry young man and it is just a matter of time before all of his rage spills out. He is his own worst enemy as he continually evades discussing what is driving his anger and guilt. Academically, he is an underachiever with a lot of potential but it is not until his school counselor takes an active interest in him that he finds classes that interest him and provide him hope for his future. With his dad’s intervention, John is given a chance to join the school’s lacrosse team and while this provides an outlet for some of his aggression, his unresolved issues continue to simmer beneath the surface. His interactions with his mother are fraught with tension and her dedication to Ryan’s care continues to be a source of contention for John. The one bright spot in his life is his younger sister, Livy, and he will go to great lengths to protect her from the fallout of their shattered family.
One of the most frustrating aspects of The Homecoming is John’s refusal to open up about the reasons for his anger and guilt. He has wonderful relationship with his counselor but he barely scratches the surface of his problems during their sessions. Instead of facing his issues head on, John continues to uses pot and alcohol to anesthetize his pain. Even with the threat of his probation being revoked and getting sent to juvie to serve out his sentence, he continues to make poor choices and he deliberately provokes his probation officer. Emily is the only person he feels comfortable enough to confide in but there are topics that he refuses to discuss even with her.
The truth about Ryan’s accident is slowly revealed over the course of the novel. The events surrounding John’s banishment to his dad’s are also withheld for much of the story as well. This slow parceling of details is somewhat frustrating since there is little context for John’s behavior or his anger towards his mother. Getting to the crux of the family’s problems is what drives the story but it will take a great deal of patience on the reader’s part since all of the details are not revealed until the novel’s conclusion.
The Homecoming is an emotionally draining yet ultimately healing young adult novel. The characters are immensely flawed and their struggles are realistically portrayed. Narrated in first person from John’s perspective, his voice is authentic and he is a sympathetic albeit frustrating protagonist. The story is well-written with a unique storyline and Stacie Ramey deftly handles difficult subject matter with sensitivity. This riveting story provides an unflinchingly honest look at a family’s efforts to cope with the emotional fallout from a tragic accident.
Although this is a companion to last year’s release, The Sister Pact, it can be read as a standalone.