The Exact Location of Home by Kate Messner


Goodreads: The Exact Location of Home
Series: companion novel to The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z
Source: Library
Published: ebook 2014, hardcover 2017


Kirby “Zig” Zigonski’s parents have been divorced for three years, so he’s looking forward to his dad’s next visit.  His dad, however, never shows up.  Zig and his mom are experiencing a rough patch and soon they are living in a homeless shelter, so Zig wants more than ever to find his dad so he can set things right. Convinced that his father has hidden clues to his location in local geocaches, Zig starts searching.  But how can he hold onto hope when hope seems out of reach?

Star Divider


In The Exact Location of Home, Kate Messner sympathetically depicts the life of an eighth grader who finds himself homeless in the middle of the school year. Zig has previously been occupied with fixing broken electronics, skipping stones with his friends Ruby and Gianna, and searching for local geocaches.  Suddenly, however, his mom’s paycheck from the diner does not allow them to make end’s meet.  And she won’t have better luck paying rent until she has finished her nursing degree.  So, after a night sleeping in the truck, the two find themselves at a shelter.  But though his mom is grateful, Zig only feels a sense of shame.

Without ever seeming heavy-handed, Messner brings to life some of the reality of what it means to be homeless.  Zig’s grades start to slip because he now lacks pencils and paper, or a sharpener for his pencil when he manages to get one.  The teachers at school, even when trying to be compassionate, sometimes miss the mark.  Their charity is often directed externally, to the “less fortunate” who “are not educated” and takes the form of detached giving.  Meanwhile, the homeless students in their classrooms go by unnoticed, except when they are reprimanded for being unprepared.

But life is not all gloom for Zig.  He is determined to find his missing father and so he goes on a quest around town, searching geocaches for clues.  His friends Gianna and Ruby help him, when he lets them.  And so moments of ordinary friendship and outdoor fun sometimes shine through, even when Zig is feeling most hopeless.

The Exact Location of Home is a beautiful and moving story that celebrates the strength of children everywhere as they face their struggles, but a special celebration of the children who face their struggles while living without a stable home.  Educators will certainly benefit from it.  But I think children will love it as well.  It is a book that does not talk down to readers, but acknowledges that sometimes they face terrible things–but they can make it through.

5 stars

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