Ok, first off: no sarcastic comments about how long it's been since I last blogged. I probably don't need to worry though because who knows if anyone even checks this blog. But no worries! I like reading and I like writing about what I read, even if there's no one to read it. :)
Joan Bauer is one of my most favoritist authors. Ever. I think she's incredible. This post might turn into an author spotlight. I admittedly haven't read all of her books, but I've read a good number of them. She specializes in coming-of-age stories. I am a sucker for a well-written (notice the emphasis there) coming-of-age story.
I just finished her most recent novel: Almost Home. It's a story about 12-year-old Sugar Mae Cole. Her gambling-addicted father, whom she calls Mr. Leeland (that's his first name), has been in and out of her life for as long as she can remember. Her mother, Reba, is doing the best she can while she waits for Mr. Leeland to come back and keep all the promises that he keeps breaking. After losing their home, Reba suffers from a nervous breakdown and is put in the hospital. This lands Sugar into foster care, but luckily, she is put in a great situation where she is surrounded by people who care about her and realize what she has to offer. Most importantly, they help Sugar come to realize what she has to offer. And through it all, she gets to keep her puppy, Shush, who endured an abusive home before finding Sugar.
What I love about Joan Bauer's writing is the strong voice she gives to each of her characters. I felt like I had known Sugar for years after reading the first five pages of the book. Bauer's characters really come alive and I find myself thinking about them long after I finished the book. She also puts a big focus on families and what they can do to help each other heal and overcome whatever they are facing. She also has a skillful way of exploring tough topics that can help broaden a reader's view of the world. In Almost Home, it's homelessness. Other books she has written have covered terminal illness, alcoholism, and divorce.
Here's a link to Joan Bauer's website with her own brief description of her books. I have read Close to Home, Stand Tall, Hope Was Here (Newbery Honor), Sticks, Thwonk, and Squashed. Thownk is the most fluffy of her books that I've read (it's been a while since I've read it). Every time I read Hope Was Here or Squashed (yes, they are that good that I have read them multiple times), I always think I like that one the best. And now Almost Home has entered into that race and made it a three-way tie.
I can't wait for Joan Bauer to write another book.