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Teen Issues: Teen Homelessness and NO PARKING AT THE END TIMES by Bryan Bliss

In November of this year the results of a new study were released that indicate that the U.S. had achieved a disreputable goal: In the year 2013 1 in 30 youth were homeless at some point. That’s 2.5 million children experiencing homelessness. This was an unprecedented level of homelessness for our youth, a shamefully high and unacceptable number for a first world nation that is supposed to pride itself in its compassion for the least of these and be such an economic powerhouse.

 

Fast Fact: Children under 18 accounted for 39% of the homeless population – See more at: http://www.safehorizon.org/page/homeless-youth-statistics–facts-69.html#sthash.PufCz7ha.dpuf

As we have discussed in our ongoing series on Teens and Poverty (listed below), being from a low income family presents a variety of very real challenges to our youth. Being homeless even more so.

In 2015 a new book titled NO PARKING AT THE ENDS TIME by Bryan Bliss will be released that takes a very stark look at a family with two teenage children living out of their van in the San Francisco area. The reasons for their homelessness are unique, but the results are very much the same: these teens are not enrolled in school, they are forced to memorize a schedule of local meal distributions to find basic food, and they are in constant danger of being noticed both by local criminal elements and children’s services.

Many families typically find themselves without a home due to job loss, medical issues that bankrupt them, or fleeing from a violent home.  A large number of teens are homeless because they are rejected by their family when they come out as GLBTQ. But the family in NO PARKING AT THE END TIMES is homeless because their parents got involved in an end times cult and they sold all their possessions to travel to San Fran and wait for whatever is supposed to come next. Except it doesn’t come.

Fast Fact: Approximately 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBT – See more at: http://www.safehorizon.org/page/homeless-youth-statistics–facts-69.html#sthash.PufCz7ha.dpuf

Author Bliss makes some really interesting decisions here. By choosing to have the family become homeless due to issues of faith, he creates a really interesting discussion piece about the role of faith in the life of modern day believers and juxtaposes them against the discussion of parental responsibility. If you were to go with a literal interpretation of the Bible, Jesus did indeed say that believers should abandon everything and follow him, which these parents are doing. He even says that you should literally walk away from your plow and just leave it in the field to come follow Him. Wealth and riches are considered one of the largest stumbling blocks to entering into the kingdom. But our modern day world also insists that we take appropriate care of the children we bring into this world, which these parents are failing at miserably. In fact, they may be the worst parents I have ever encountered in YA literature outside of the sexually and violently abusive ones, although they are ironically very loving and well intentioned.

Fast Fact: Every year, approximately 5,000 homeless young people will die because of assault, illness, or suicide while trying to survive. – See more at: http://www.safehorizon.org/page/homeless-youth-statistics–facts-69.html#sthash.PufCz7ha.dpuf

Outside of the very interesting discussion of faith that happens in the pages of this book, Bliss also presents a very realistic and compelling look into the physical and emotional struggles of homeless teens. And while many homeless teens in YA lit are homeless and living on their own, here we see a homeless family trying to stay together – a very real life scenario as some kids and teens are homeless not in isolation but as one part of a homeless family unit. This family is living in their van, which they have to make sure and move periodically in order to avoid getting ticketed, arrested, or towed. They have to find ways to stay together in the absence of communication devices that would make it easy for them to find and locate one another if separated. They must find ways to shower and brush their teeth, to stay warm in the cold nights, and to find food. In the pages of Bliss’ book we see these very real struggles and although the reason behind them may make you angry, they did me, it’s a very compelling and compassionate look into the lives of what recent statistics tell us 1 in 30 youth are living.

If one of our goals in reading is to get a glimpse into lives different then our own, and I believe it sometimes is, then No Parking at the End Times should be on every TBR pile out there in 2015, both for its fascinating look at the spiritual lives of teens and for its insightful look into the lives of family homelessness. In the media we hear a lot of debate and anger about the causes and solutions for poverty and homelessness, but we forget that at the heart of this matter are actual people, often children who are in no position to help themselves. Abigail and Aaron are stand ins for the 1 in 30 homeless children whose stories we aren’t hearing because they are too tired and hungry and marginalized to speak up. Bliss has created a compelling narrative that reminds us all that there are real and vulnerable people behind these statistics, and we need to listen to their stories.

About NO PARKING AT THE END TIMES by Bryan Bliss

“Abigail’s parents have made mistake after mistake, and now they’ve lost everything. She’s left to decide: Does she still believe in them? Or is it time to believe in herself? Fans of Sara Zarr, David Levithan, and Rainbow Rowell will connect with this moving debut.

Abigail doesn’t know how her dad found Brother John. Maybe it was the billboards. Or the radio. What she does know is that he never should have made that first donation. Or the next, or the next. Her parents shouldn’t have sold their house. Or packed Abigail and her twin brother, Aaron, into their old van to drive across the country to San Francisco, to be there with Brother John for the “end of the world.” Because of course the end didn’t come. And now they’re living in their van. And Aaron’s disappearing to who-knows-where every night. Their family is falling apart. All Abigail wants is to hold them together, to get them back to the place where things were right. But maybe it’s too big a task for one teenage girl. Bryan Bliss’s thoughtful, literary debut novel is about losing everything—and about what you will do for the people you love.” (Publisher’s Description)

Will be published February 24th, 2015 by Greenwillow Books. ISBN: 9780062275417

More on Teens, Hunger and Poverty in our Teen Issues series:

See also Stacked: Socioeconomic Class in Contemporary YA Lit: Where Are The Poor Teens? Guest Post by Librarian Faythe Arrendondo and Kate Brauning: Writing Poverty in YA

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  1. […] For more on No Parking at the End Times and adolescent homelessness and poverty in YA books, here is an excellent post from Teen Librarian Toolbox. […]

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