The Exact Location of Home

224p. Bloomsbury. Oct. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781681195483.
RedReviewStarGr 5–7—Thirteen-year-old science and electronics enthusiast Zig hasn't had a visit from his father in more than a year. Zig's mother won't explain why, so he begins looking for clues in local geocaches. Meanwhile, Zig's mother fails to pay the rent and they move into a homeless shelter after a short stay with Zig's aunt Becka, who lives with an abusive husband. Messner describes the mundane details of hard realities. The shelter is perfectly safe, but there are no school supplies. Zig shows up for his school's free breakfast and finds out that his friend Ruby regularly attends. His teacher lectures the class about "the less fortunate," as if poverty and homelessness are issues that no child she knows has to handle. The author offers realistic but hopeful resolutions to many of Zig's problems. The geocache trail doesn't locate Zig's father, but it does lead to a job for his mother. Aunt Becka doesn't leave her husband, but she knows that Zig's mother is there for support. There is no question that life will bring problems, but it's just as certain that friends and family can help. Vivid characters and situations, along with clear, simple writing and plotting, make this an accessible and enlightening read.
VERDICT A gentle but truthful look at poverty and homelessness for fans of realistic middle grade novels, such as Gary Schmidt's Okay for Now and Messner's The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z., in which Zig is a secondary character.

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