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The Agony of Bun O'Keefe
Cover of The Agony of Bun O'Keefe
The Agony of Bun O'Keefe
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Little Miss Sunshine meets Room in this quirky, heartwarming story of friendship, loyalty and discovery.It's Newfoundland, 1986. Fourteen-year-old Bun O'Keefe has lived a solitary life in an unsafe,...
Little Miss Sunshine meets Room in this quirky, heartwarming story of friendship, loyalty and discovery.It's Newfoundland, 1986. Fourteen-year-old Bun O'Keefe has lived a solitary life in an unsafe,...
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  • Little Miss Sunshine meets Room in this quirky, heartwarming story of friendship, loyalty and discovery.
    It's Newfoundland, 1986. Fourteen-year-old Bun O'Keefe has lived a solitary life in an unsafe, unsanitary house. Her mother is a compulsive hoarder, and Bun has had little contact with the outside world. What she's learned about life comes from the random books and old VHS tapes that she finds in the boxes and bags her mother brings home. Bun and her mother rarely talk, so when Bun's mother tells Bun to leave one day, she does. Hitchhiking out of town, Bun ends up on the streets of St. John's, Newfoundland. Fortunately, the first person she meets is Busker Boy, a street musician who senses her naivety and takes her in. Together they live in a house with an eclectic cast of characters: Chef, a hotel dishwasher with culinary dreams; Cher, a drag queen with a tragic past; Big Eyes, a Catholic school girl desperately trying to reinvent herself; and The Landlord, a man who Bun is told to avoid at all cost. Through her experiences with her new roommates, and their sometimes tragic revelations, Bun learns that the world extends beyond the walls of her mother's house and discovers the joy of being part of a new family — a family of friends who care.

Reviews-

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from July 1, 2017
    In 1986, a Newfoundland teen learns that family isn't always the one you're born into--sometimes it's the one that takes you in.Bun O'Keefe has grown up isolated in a run-down house with her mother, a 300-pound hoarder, who has deprived Bun of love, care, conversation, and education. When Bun's mother tells her to get out, the literal-minded 14-year-old white girl goes to St. John's, where she meets a close-knit group of disillusioned young adults. There's Busker Boy, a Sheshatshiu Innu street performer; Big Eyes, a lapsed Catholic, white good girl who can't bring herself to swear; Chef, a talented, white culinary student; and Cher/Chris, a white drag queen. The found family of four takes Bun in, feeds and clothes her, and teaches her what it means to be loved and supported. Although Bun is 14, she possesses the endearing naivete and honesty of a child, but her first-person narration isn't sappy or immature. She's self-taught, courtesy of the many books and video tapes her mother has brought home, and her point of reference for the world is the 1978 documentary The Agony of Jimmy Quinlan, about an alcoholic on the streets of Montreal. Smith's talent lies in deftly handling numerous heavy topics: suicide, sexual abuse, neglect, AIDS, homophobia, transphobia, and racism, without making them feel forced or gratuitous--they're facts of life. Bun O'Keefe will settle comfortably at home in readers' hearts. (Historical fiction. 13-17)

    COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • School Library Journal

    September 1, 2017

    Gr 9 Up-Fourteen-year-old Bun O'Keefe is the daughter of an obsessive hoarding mother in 1980s Newfoundland. Her father left Bun and her mother when she was younger. She has been raised surrounded by the things her mother hoards-learning how to read through gift magazines, and celebrating holidays with the television, while her mother goes out and shops. She is unique in the sense that she is obsessed with learning new things and memorizing movie lines. But her mother grows tired of her quirks and tells her to leave without returning. The protagonist is found by a 20-year-old member of the Inuit people whom she knows as "Busker Boy," who then takes her home to his temporary living arrangements with fellow young adults with traumatic experiences. Bun learns through her comrades how to once again feel emotion, admitting her abused past with her mother, while helping her friends through their own history. The writing style might be a bit jarring at first for some, but once readers figure out that the text reflects the main character's thought processes, it makes the book that much more accessible. Teens will truly dive into Bun's mind and her surroundings through her understanding of the world. Intense situations, such as suicide, rape, molestation of a minor, human trafficking, and violence all appear in the story. The well-crafted characters will take teens on an emotional roller-coaster ride of joy and despair. VERDICT A nuanced, well-done novel about tough topics that deserves a place in most collections.-Danielle Jacobs, Las Vegas Clark County Library District

    Copyright 2017 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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    PRH Canada Young Readers
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