Happy Spring, y’all!
I hope you are seeing signs of warmer weather coming. We’ve had a few gorgeous days and are loving being outside in the sun.
Today I am so excited to share a review of A Duet for Home by Karina Yan Glaser. I was thrilled to hear that she had a new book coming out! If you’ve been here before, you have probably read a few rave reviews of her Vanderbeeker series. I love these books about a Harlem family and all their adventures. This is a standalone novel also set in New York City, and it’s as delightful and hopeful as the Vanderbeeker books.
I received an ARC from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.
Book Summary: “From the New York Times bestselling creator of the Vanderbeeker series comes a triumphant tale of friendship, healing, and the power of believing in ourselves told from the perspective of biracial sixth-graders June and Tyrell, two children living in a homeless shelter. As their friendship grows over a shared love of classical music, June and Tyrell confront a new housing policy that puts homeless families in danger.
It’s June’s first day at Huey House, and as if losing her home weren’t enough, she also can’t bring her cherished viola inside. Before the accident last year, her dad saved tip money for a year to buy her viola, and she’s not about to give it up now. Tyrell has been at Huey House for three years and gives June a glimpse of the good things about living there: friendship, hot meals, and a classical musician next door. Can he and June work together to oppose the government, or will families be forced out of Huey House before they are ready?”
The first thing that sticks out to me is how masterful Karina creates her settings. I was transported once again to New York City and experienced all the sites and sounds of the city. Karina creates settings that feel both comfortable and engaging. I felt at home at Huey House surrounded by the many different people that become family. I could see the painted hallways, smell the cafeteria food, and hear the music from next door. I was transported to Chinatown and felt drawn to June’s former home. Even Tyrell’s visit to a dark spot in his past felt so real and I felt his pain as he felt trapped by what had happened there. New York is a huge city yet Karina makes it feel cozy and familiar.
Karina also creates characters that are easy to cheer for and impossible to forget. I loved June from the first moment we meet her. She is trying to keep her family together and build a new life after the tragic death of her father. I admired her passion for music, her determination to make things better for her family, and her tender love for her sister Maybelle. Unlike an average kid, June has to deal with some hard things. I admire how she takes those experiences and makes herself stronger. Tyrell is a fascinating and complex character. I was a little intimidated by him at first, but in a good way. He seemed so cool! At first, it seems like he has everything together. He has lived at Huey House for years, has a best friend there, does well in school, and pulls pranks without much backlash. But as the story progresses, we learn so much more about him. I was drawn to his journey to be his own man and overcome his family’s past and racial stereotypes. His experiences at the end of the book are so satisfying.
As always, Karina’s storytelling is vibrant and engaging while tackling tough themes. The stories flow from the page and capture readers attention until the end. I always read her books quickly because they are so engaging. This is a book about two kids that are homeless. That is a hard topic to read about especially when it focuses on kids. Yet, this story is so hopeful and engaging. From the first page, I was invested in June and Tyrell’s stories. I wanted them to succeed and I was surprised to see how well they fit into the Huey House family. Before reading this book, I had very little knowledge about homelessness. I appreciated the author’s note at the beginning of this book and how she brings her experiences in this field to the story. Homelessness isn’t just about numbers and moving people out of shelters. These people have stories, relationships, and dreams that can be relit as they connect with others and are given opportunities to improve.
I loved this new novel from Karina Yan Glaser! The characters are relatable new friends. The setting is vibrant as it comes alive on the page. And the storytelling is as engaging as ever. Flowing through the story is a beautiful musical journey as June develops her viola skills and Tyrell’s world shifts as he discovers musical talent of his own. These protagonists show us that there is hope in dark times, hard work can bring change, and friendship can overcome even the toughest of barriers. I couldn’t put this one down!
What are some of your favorite books set in New York City?
Have you read any novels about homelessness?
Originally from California, Karina came to New York City for college & has stuck around for over twenty years. She has had a varied career teaching & implementing literacy programs in family homeless shelters & recruiting healthcare professionals to volunteer in under resourced areas around the world. Now as a mother, one of her proudest achievements is raising two kids who can’t go anywhere without a book. She lives in Harlem with her husband, two daughters, two dogs, & three cats.
Karina is a contributing editor at Book Riot, the largest independent book media company in North America, where she writes the weekly The Kids Are All Right newsletter as well as children’s book recommendation posts. Subscribe to the newsletter here, and check out her posts here.