Does running away get you any closer to finding yourself?
For the first nine years of her life, Savannah had her young mother Alice all to herself. They were close and carefree as they traveled across the USA, living somewhere for a little while, until the itch to move had to be scratched again. Savannah does not know who her father is, but that's okay with her. Their family of two suits her just fine.
During Savannah's childhood, Alice went through a string of boyfriends. However, as Savannah is about to cross over into double digits, Alice falls for Jack. They get married, have a little boy, and plan roots. Suddenly, the family has doubled in size. The road trips end - and the abuse begins. Jack likes to drink. He does not seem to like Savannah.
By the time Savannah is in high school, her stepfather has lost his job, her mother has lost the spark she once had, and her half-brother Henry has learned to listen in doorways before coming in the room, for fear of walking in on an argument. One night in the kitchen, it becomes too much for Savannah. She hits Jack with a pan (not to kill him but to knock him out), tells Henry to pack some things, takes the car keys and leaves with her little brother in tow.
Stealing Henry is more than what the title implies. It is about family and about survival. The story impressively alternates between present day, following Savannah's attempt at escape, and 1986, when Savannah's mother was a teenager. The modern part of the story takes place over a matter of days, keeping up with the swift pace of Savannah and Henry as they go across the country.
The characters and the stories they tell are memorable. The dialogue is realistic, especially that spoken by Savannah, who doesn't hold back. She is remarkably selfless. Her love for her brother and her mother shines in everything she does. When Savannah realizes that her mother is not who she once was, the revelation alone is heartbreaking, but the writing makes it even moreso.
I highly recommend Stealing Henry, especially to those who love books by Sarah Dessen and Melissa Lion. Those who enjoyed Falling Through Darkness, Carolyn MacCullough's first novel, will not be disappointed by Stealing Henry. In fact, they may enjoy Stealing Henry even more. I know I did.
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