For the most part, Hannah’s life is just how she wants it. She has two supportive parents, she’s popular at school, and she’s been killing it at gymnastics. But when her cousin Cal moves in with her family, everything changes. Cal tells half-truths and tall tales, pranks Hannah constantly, and seems to be the reason her parents are fighting more and more. Nothing is how it used to be. She knows that Cal went through a lot after his mom died and she is trying to be patient, but most days Hannah just wishes Cal never moved in.
For his part, Cal is trying his hardest to fit in, but not everyone is as appreciative of his unique sense of humor and storytelling gifts as he is. Humor and stories might be his defense mechanism, but if Cal doesn’t let his walls down soon, he might push away the very people who are trying their best to love him.
Told in verse from the alternating perspectives of Hannah and Cal, this is a story of two cousins who are more alike than they realize and the family they both want to save.
Hopkins has been a long-time favorite author of mine. So, when I heard that her newest novel was going to be a middle-grade story written in verse, I was very excited. Closer to Nowhere follows two cousins, Hannah and Cal. Cal’s mom died and his dad is in prison, so he’s moved in with his aunt and uncle, and his cousin, Hannah. At it’s heart, this is a story about two kids that are learning how their words and actions effect the people around them.
Cal has had a hard childhood. With an abusive father and the death of his mother, he struggles with PTSD. We see this in many examples of Cal ‘running away’ and walking around the neighborhood for hours, screaming when he’s unable to work through his anger or other emotions. He also is just a kid that likes to play jokes. He pulls all kinds of pranks that are objectively hilarious, but Hannah disagrees. I didn’t come from an abusive home, but I do have family history of substance abuse, so I thought this topic of Cal’s dad’s addiction was discussed thoughtfully and how his addiction effected Cal was also really well done, in my opinion.
Hannah has had a relatively happy childhood. She lives in a nice home with both her mom and dad. Both her parents do all they can to support her by showing up to all of her sporting events. But when Cal moves into her house, things start to change. I think it was interesting to see how Hannah’s life changed after Cal moved in and how Hannah dealt with those changes (read: not well, at first). Hannah has lived a privileged life and she wishes things could go back to how they were before Cal moved in. But Hannah slowly learns about the things that Cal has had to deal with. The more she learns about his past, the more she tries to be more understanding. I really liked this aspect of Hannah’s story. She still wishes that things hadn’t changed with her parents, but she starts to realize that none of those changes are Cal’s fault.
I think telling this story with both Cal and Hannah’s points of view was an excellent idea. We get both first-person perspectives from them and the perspective of another. It was thought-provoking to see how two characters experienced the same events in different ways.
Overall, I loved this book. I truly hope that we will get more middle-grade stories from Hopkins. She did a really great job talking about addiction, PTSD and other mental health topics, death, homelessness, marital problems, alcoholism, and blended families in an accessible way for middle school age children. I highly recommend this book.
Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.