Received from NetGalley for review.
‘From there it’s my stars that I see/ There dwells the real history of me.’ – Home and Away by Benjamin Zephaniah
I’ll Be Home for Christmas is a collaboration between Stripes publishing, Crisis homeless charity, and a selection of top YA authors. It is a collection of short stories and a poem that all centre on the theme of ‘home’ and its many different meanings – what is it, what it means to different people, and how that meaning can be massively varied depending on your circumstances. This is a truly excellent collection, which explores the experience of people with homes and without homes, those who are redefining their idea of home, those who are unwelcome with their family, or who have found themselves in an unfamiliar place. Even though not all the stories were to my tastes, they were all brilliantly written and explored what home means in massively different ways. I’m only going to comment on my favourite stories but I highly recommend the collection as a whole; nearly every story was easily 4/5 stars for me.
Proceeds from the sale of this book will go to Crisis in order to help thousands of disadvantaged people across the UK, both at Christmas and throughout the year, which makes this collection all the more important to me. No one should feel like they have nowhere to go but it’s a horrible reality for many people, young and old. Even though many of the stories are difficult, distressing or upsetting in places, I found that there was an overwhelming feeling of hope in most of them – hope of better times, better people, and a warm place that welcomes them, which is exactly what charities like Crisis are able to do. Even though this collection came to me via NetGalley I know I’ll be buying my own physical copy when it is released, so that I can do my own small bit for Crisis and for anyone who has ever had to spend a night cold, hungry, and lonely, and without a place to call home.
My favourites were: Home and Away by Benjamin Zephaniah, Family You Choose by Cat Clarke, The Afterschool Club by Holly Bourne, The Letter by Tracy Darnton, Claws by Tom Becker, The Bluebird by Julie Mayhew, and Routes and Wings by Lisa Williamson.
Home and Away by Benjamin Zephaniah – 4/5 stars. This was the only poem in the collection but it created a very strong start to the book. It’s a very moving poem of the desire to be home for Christmas and filled with all the familiar sights, sounds, and smells of family and the festive season.
Ghosts of Christmas Past by Non Pratt – 4/5 stars
If Only in My Dreams by Marcus Sedgwick – 4/5 stars
Family You Choose by Cat Clarke – 4/5 stars. This tells the story of Effie who has come out to her parents, but they haven’t reacted brilliantly. They’re trying but are typical pushy parents who want to control the direction of her life. The power of friendship is explored in this and how they can become your real home.
The Associates by Kevin Brooks – 4/5 stars
The Afterschool Club by Holly Bourne– 4/5 stars. Ben and Mercedes are two teens from massively different backgrounds who are both uncomfortable at home for vastly different reasons. They become unlikely friends and the feeling of hope at the end of this story is incredible. It’s sad, yes, but there is a lot of potential in the ‘what if?’ that their lives could have. Be prepared to feel all the feels.
Homo for Christmas by Juno Dawson – 4/5 stars
Amir and George by Sita Brahmachani – 4/5 stars
The Letter by Tracy Darnton– 4/5 stars. Tracy Darnton won a competition to have her piece included and I can’t wait to see what else she does. This tells the story of Amber, who finds herself in custody of social services after her mum dies and finds herself in an unexpected position when a letter from her father arrives. This is a dark story, but again there is a strong feeling of hope at the end, and not the kind you expect.
Claws by Tom Becker – 4/5 stars. I’ll be honest; this scared the shit out of me. Admittedly I’m ridiculously easily scared but I wouldn’t read this in the dark. Secluded village, haunted house, deaths at Christmas, strange happenings. Very creepy, but very good.
Christmas, Take Two by Katy Cannon – 3.5/5 stars
When Daddy Comes Home by Melvin Burgess – 3/5 stars
The Bluebird by Julie Mayhew – 4/5 stars. This mixes reality with fairy tale in a stream of consciousness style prose and it’s very effective.
Routes and Wings by Lisa Williamson – 4/5 stars. This tackles the struggles of homelessness directly, following Lauren through a night on the streets and how she lives. It shows the harsh reality of life on the street and finishes the collection very powerfully.
Read: August 8th-10th 2016