New Timely Teen Read Tackles The Stuggle Of Being Homeless

No PlaceDan is a baseball star and dates the hottest girl in school.  But Dan has a secret.  His family is losing their home and they have to move in with an Uncle who resents his parent’s joblessness.  Things don’t work out at his Uncle’s house and his parents make the decision to move to Dignityville, a tent community for the homeless.  Dan makes friends with a girl named Meg whose brother is a lead organizer who is trying to make Dignityville a permanent place for those in need.  That of course, causes problems for his girlfriend, Talia.  There are many in the community who don’t want that to happen, including Dan’s uncle.  The book does not sugar coat what is happening to Dan and his family.  Inch by inch they lose things, like their phones, their car and their well being.  Dan’s friends are going to see his favorite band and don’t invite him because he can’t afford the ticket.  Everything is made harder by poverty.  Todd Strasser does an excellent job framing this story for a bigger discussion.  On one hand those with jobs think of the people in Dignityville are lazy, while there are many there who are trying to find work and can’t.  There are people like Dan’s mother who just gave up after finding nothing for years.  This book is a great read for both male and female readers.  Homelessness and poverty are everywhere, young readers may have classmates struggling with this, or maybe they are struggling with it themselves. Either way, readers will be able to connect with the characters and the challenges they face.

Some ides for discussing with teens:

Talk about Dan’s relationship with Talia.  His relationship with Meg.  How are they different?  Which relationship would you want?
Talk about how Dan’s relationship with Talia is changing now that he is homeless.
Discuss the moment when Dan’s Uncle Ron speaks out at the meeting.  Do you think he would have done that had he known that Dan’s parents were there?
Discuss Dan’s conversation with Noah about college and becoming a doctor.
What is your opinion of Dan’s parents.  Is Dignityville worse or better than being at his Uncle’s house?
Talk about how your life would change if you became homeless like Dan and his family.
Discuss the choice Dan’s father made.  What do you think is next for his family?
Read page 176 aloud and discuss.
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