“At the Edge of the Haight” Book Review

I always appreciate any book that can help me get out of my bubble. “At the Edge of the Haight” opened my eyes to a whole new group of people that I’ve never really dove into examining before. The story follows a young girl, Mady, who is living on the streets in San Francisco. She’s not despairing about being homeless or working to find a job or get into school. She’s just focusing on every day as it comes (heading to a shelter or panhandling when she needs to).

I know that homelessness is a hot button issue for a lot of people (especially since we have so many here in LA.) But I was really drawn into the circumstances of Mady’s life since she’s only focused on the here and now. It was an interesting point of view to have because it’s so different from how I think I would be in the same situation. It’s always a good thing to get to experience the world through someone else’s eyes.

The aspect that kept me from rating this book higher is that there wasn’t a lot of action or forward movement to the plot. In the beginning of the book, Mady stumbles on a dead young man in the park where she hangs out. I thought there would be a little bit more to this mystery (especially when the man’s parents come to find answers after his death), but there really wasn’t anything to make the book feel exciting, even with this subplot.

I also felt disappointed by the ending. It was sort of abrupt and didn’t let the reader discover what would happen to Mady going forward. We’re left not even sure if her life will change or if she’ll remain homeless and on the streets. It felt hard for me to connect with Mady because I couldn’t really understand her motivations or choices – I think this is why the ending felt even more frustrating. I didn’t know Mady well enough to imagine how her story would play out past the last page.

I think this novel raises some really interesting questions. How do we help people who don’t really want to be ‘saved’? I’m impressed that Katherine Seligman was able to tackle this topic, but I wish that I’d been able to connect more to the characters. I’ll be interested to see what subjects she tackles in the future, even if this one wasn’t a hit for me.

3 stars

*Free ARC provided by Netgalley and Algonquin Books in exchange for an honest review*

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