Saturday, February 03, 2007

A Way With Words

Wolfson, Jill. 2006. Home and Other Big, Fat Lies

Whitney is a narrator with a way for words. A foster kid all her life--from two months of age--she is as prepared as she'll ever be for her new foster home in the country.

Let's say you're a kid who's small for her age and some other kids who are way overgrown decide it would be the most hilarious thing in the world to shove the new kid in the house into the clothes dryer and slam it closed. I can tell you how to get out of that dryer by kicking and screaming bloody murder so that the foster mom with the bald spot on the top of her head rescues you in front of the entire snickering ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha house full of kids. I can also give you the complete rundown on the most common varieties of foster parents you're likely to run into. Like the look-on-the-bright side ones who go on and on until your head is ready to explode like a potato in a microwave about how lucky you are that you weren't born a foster kid in 1846. Or the one... (3).

Full of advice on how to survive the worst, she is unprepared to give advice on how to expect the best. Hope is a dangerous thing when you're a foster kid and Whitney doesn't want to take any chances on getting hurt.

When she arrives in her new home, in her new town, Forest Glen, she's more than a little restless. And when she throws up in front of her new family right off (minutes after getting out of the car) she's not off to the greatest of starts...

In case you ever need to know, here's what you do when you arrive at a new foster home and the foster mother is rude and you don't know the rules and you're laughing because you don't know what you're feeling and a psycho dog is waiting to attack and there's a kid there who hopes that you drop off the face of the planet: You don't knock. You open the door. And even though you know you don't belong here any more than you've ever belonged anywhere, you walk in like you own the place. (24)

Starting sixth grade in October isn't the easiest way for a new kid to transition, but Whitney does her best and doles out more advice:

Number one: Aim for immediate high noticeability. It doesn't matter what kind. Just get noticed. Be a soldier parachuting into the middle of a battlefield, landing in the muck with a big, fat smack of your shoes. Ta-da! I'm here! That's my style. Don't wait for them to sneak up and ambush you. They're going to call you a weirdo anyway, so be THE weirdo. Be it proudly...Like I said, you can get noticed or--strategy number two--you can let yourself be one of those faceless, gutless, voiceless kids and cross your fingers that you're off to your next foster home before anyone even notices you exist. By the way, I don't recommend the second choice. You will bore yourself to death. Besides, you might think that you're safe. But watch out. They'll find you. And then, you're dead meat. (50-51)

But Whitney's luck may have just changed. Suddenly, in this new school she finds out she's not alone. There are other kids in her class--five or six at least--who are all foster kids. It seems the whole school is full of foster kids. Kids who understand her. Who know the rules of how to survive. Who welcome her. Life has never seemed so good...but can it last???

I mentioned that Whitney has a way with words. I wanted to pull together some examples:

From her conversation with Honeysuckle and Josh--two of the foster kids in her sixth grade class--
Honeysuckle explained, "The social worker said that if Josh sets his mind to it, he can get into Stanford. Stanford's a big college. It's hard to get into." I drummed my fingers on the box [the box Josh is hiding in and has been hiding in since the beginning of the school year] "Must be one of those optometrist social workers." "Optimistic," Honeysuckle tried to correct. "No, optometrist. That social worker needs to get her vision checked." I turned back to Josh. "No offense, kid. This thing about getting into Stanford? It looks like you're having trouble getting through sixth grade." (90)

From her conversation with Striker, her foster brother
I told Striker that of all the members of the Nature and Ecology Club, I was the only one who hadn't been incriminated by him. "Intimidated," he said. "Incriminated means there's evidence that you're guilty of a crime." "I mean incriminated. You made everyone feel guilty just for being alive. (156)

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