Book Reviews, YA Book Club for Writers

Book Club Review: The Way Back Home by Allan Stratton

Zoe’s straitlaced and narrow-minded parents don’t understand her. Worse than that, they also want to put Zoe’s beloved Granny in a seniors home, despite Zoe’s objections. Sure, Granny has become a bit odd and her memory is spotty, but she’s outspoken and funny, and Zoe loves her. Granny still mourns her favourite son, Teddy, who was also a troublemaker, and who died before Zoe was born.

Or did he?

After a series of disastrous incidents, including a school suspension and a near-death bullying experience, Zoe decides to liberate herself and her grandmother from their respective prisons, taking them on an unforgettable journey to Toronto, where Zoe learns the truth about her uncle and discovers strengths of her own that just might help her find a way back home.

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Book Club discussion highlights:

We loved this story. Allan Stratton develops characters you can’t help but love. He grabs your emotions and you’re sucked into Zoe’s world. You feel everything along with the characters. Speaking for myself, I laughed out loud and cried real tears and felt everything in between. I could not put this book down.

Stratton is such a professional writer he makes it look easy. Amazing settings, fully developed characters, fast-paced plot. If you’re looking for an exceptional example to strive for to grow as a writer, this is one (yes, of many, but this is a really good one).

The Way Back Home has several layers and sub-plot lines that all intertwine well. But it’s the little things that made this story blossom — Like the significance of “rhubarb pie.” Or that the reader can almost map the small town where Zoe lives based on landmarks due to excellent descriptions. Even the subtlety of mother-in-law and daughter-in-law relationships is addressed.

We did wonder about the ease of the relationship between Zoe and Granny. It almost seemed too perfect. Zoe, being a teen, was the most patient and understanding of her Granny than anyone, which could be believable. But that she was able to handle every situation, without frustration, or, at times, embarrassment, became a bit of a question mark. Once she and Granny hit the road, there were many obstacles, but with her Alzheimer’s stricken grandmother at her side, it just seemed that Zoe could have far more problems arising from that specific situation.

The villian of the story, Zoe’s cousin Maddi, had no redeeming qualities, there was nothing about her to like. There was no explanation for why she treated Zoe the way she did. That relationship could have been fleshed out just a bit more.

A particular notation was that we all read the author’s note at the end. And it made the story that much sweeter to get a glimpse into Stratton’s experience with Alzheimer’s affecting his own mother. I can only imagine how difficult it was to write The Way Back Home.

Stratton has an ability to naturally weave social issues into his stories without shining a preaching bright spotlight on them. To say more would give spoilers to the story, but in short, he’s a master storyteller.

I just have to mention the cover. I love it, the birdhouse image is brilliant, but it’s not just the symbol, its the use of neon colours. It literally jumps off the shelf. I’m sure it will only take a second to spot it on mine.

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We absolutely recommend this book.

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This is an unsolicited review. I purchased my copy from Amazon.ca.

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Canada (Dec 26 2018)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1443148399

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