Title: The Homecoming
Author: Stacie Ramey
Publication Date: November 1, 2016
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Format: Paperback ARC
Age Group: Young Adult
Forced to return to his estranged family, John discovers how hard it is to truly go home. It's been a year since John lost his girlfriend, Leah, to suicide. Living with his uncle keeps his mind from the tragedy and his screwed up family -- until he gets into trouble and a judge sends him back home. With a neglectful mother and abusive brother, John's homecoming is far from happy. As he tries to navigate and repair the relationships he abandoned years ago, Emily, the girl next door, is the only bright spot. She's sweet and smart and makes him think his heart may finally be healing. But tragedy isn't far away, and John must soon face an impossible decision: save his family or save himself.
It wasn't until halfway through this book that I realized that it is a companion to The Sister Pact. I still believe that this can be read as a standalone title, but in some instances, I do feel that reading that story would have enhanced this particular reading experience. Another thing that was unique to this particular book is that I didn't read the synopsis right before delving in. I'd read it a couple months before so I wasn't sure what would be in store.
So, right off the bat, this story is told from the perspective of John, a male protagonist. YA is my favorite category to read and it's refreshing to see a story told from a male's perspective, because although it's out there, I don't usually see a male perspective that is front and center. Especially a guy who is going through as many issues as he is facing. From the onset, we know that John's been sent to live with his mother as part of his parole and that he will be living once again with his brother, who's suffered some tragedy in the past which has rendered him with a severe and permanent handicap.
We also know (and trigger warning to all), that John's coping mechanisms with life in general is to turn to drugs and alcohol. It stems from his inability to cope with memories from the past, including the suicide of his girlfriend. He's also dealing with some familial issues which stem from neglect and abuse. So heavy, heavy stuff. This is, most definitely, not a light read but a very character-driven story and thus, slow burning. Most of the explanations behind some of the issues John is facing is revealed towards the end. So patience is key.
I enjoyed Stacie Ramey's writing style and may go back to read The Sister Pact, if only to get all the details regarding John's girlfriend and her circumstances. Another thing I liked seeing was a very flawed central character. Despite those flaws, his good-nature tendencies shine through when it comes to his relationship with his younger sister Livy, and his next door neighbor, Emily. Here is someone who definitely carries a large chip on his shoulder and for very good reason. The lessons revealed around the way he copes (or not), ultimately, is what drives the central conflict.
So if you are on the hunt for a character-driven story that is gloomy for the most part but very important for mental health and substance abuse dialogue, this is the book for you.