The Agony of Bun O'Keefe

224p. Penguin Canada. Sept. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780143198659.
Gr 9 Up—Fourteen-year-old Bun O'Keefe is the daughter of an obsessive hoarding mother in 1980s Newfoundland. Her father left Bun and her mother when she was younger. She has been raised surrounded by the things her mother hoards—learning how to read through gift magazines, and celebrating holidays with the television, while her mother goes out and shops. She is unique in the sense that she is obsessed with learning new things and memorizing movie lines. But her mother grows tired of her quirks and tells her to leave without returning. The protagonist is found by a 20-year-old member of the Inuit people whom she knows as "Busker Boy," who then takes her home to his temporary living arrangements with fellow young adults with traumatic experiences. Bun learns through her comrades how to once again feel emotion, admitting her abused past with her mother, while helping her friends through their own history. The writing style might be a bit jarring at first for some, but once readers figure out that the text reflects the main character's thought processes, it makes the book that much more accessible. Teens will truly dive into Bun's mind and her surroundings through her understanding of the world. Intense situations, such as suicide, rape, molestation of a minor, human trafficking, and violence all appear in the story. The well-crafted characters will take teens on an emotional roller-coaster ride of joy and despair.
VERDICT A nuanced, well-done novel about tough topics that deserves a place in most collections.

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