The Double Life of Zoe Flynn by Janet Lee Carey is an example of just how adult the issues in Young Adult literature can be. And I don’t mean sex.
The adult world has done some serious damage to Zoe Flynn’s life. Her father has lost his job and as a result their family home. Zoe is forced to leave behind the room she loves, her best friend and her dog and travel with her brother, mother and father to another town in another state. Once there her family must live in their van until her parents can find jobs and save enough money to rent a place to live. They manage to get Zoe enrolled in the local school but once there she must live a double life. She wants to make friends, of course, but she cannot tell anyone the truth about her living situation especially since the family van is in a hidden spot off the main roads, not exactly legally parked.
Zoe’s parents try to make the experience seem like an adventure, to make it as fun as they possibly can, and they succeed to some degree, especially with Zoe’s younger brother. It is like a camping trip at first and the stories Zoe’s father tells along with the fantasy novels Zoe can escape into help Zoe deal with her situation. She worries that the best friend she left behind will forget her since she has no phone to call her with and she finds it difficult to make a new best friend when she can never invite anyone over afterschool or even tell anyone the full truth about what happened to her family.
The Double Life of Zoe Flynn is not just the story of Zoe’s search for a new home. It’s a story that asks us how much we really know about eachother, ask me how much I know about the students in my classroom. As far as her behavior in school goes, Zoe is a wonderful child, someone any teacher would want seven of. Once she leaves school she has to do her homework at the library because there is not enough light in the van. She has to shower and use the facilities at the public pool becuase there are none in the van. She scrounges coins to buy Galaxy Burgers at the local fast food place because she wants to win the grand prize and buy a house. At school she evades questions about her family as much as possible. These are adult responsibilities. These are adult issues.
I first read and reviewed the book as part of the research I did for an interview with the author, Janet Lee Carey, on my old blog, Ready When You Are, C.B. I’ll be reprinting the review here on Monday as part on my on-going project to move the old blog over here to the new one.