Summary: Where We Used to Roam
Where We Used to Roam is Jenn Bishop’s fourth middle grade book! I had read two of her books before this one, and loved both! In this story, we meet Emma whose ordinary life is upended when her beloved older brother Austin develops an addiction to opioids. In the midst of her brother’s health issue, Emma is also dealing with a strained friendship with her BFF, Becca from whom she seems to be growing apart. So she is half-relieved when her parents send her off to Wyoming to be with family friends while they get Austin to a rehab facility.
In Wyoming, Emma becomes interested in bisons and makes a new friend with whom she shares more than she knows. She deals with her emotions about Austin’s addiction and her issues with Becca until an unexpected event cuts her trip short.
I really liked this book. Emma is very relatable character. She makes some mistakes as she tries to adjust her friendship with Becca while expanding her friend group to more like-minded girls, and she beats herself for her poor choices. Then she essentially runs away instead of fixing the problems.
The pacing — like in all of Bishop’s books — is perfect. There’s never a dull or “dead” moment in her stories and that’s an enviable skill, both on her part and her editor’s. Readers meet Austin pre-opioids, and he’s a lovable, responsible teen. But after an injury that takes him off the sport he’s built his identity around and a break up, his behavior begins to change. Of course, it is devastating for their very-present to realize that they missed the clues, but especially so for Emma who feels responsible for having missed several clues.
When Emma arrives Wyoming, she befriends, Tyler, whom she meets at the library. The two become fast friends and as Emma learns about Tyler and his family, she feels a bit less lonely. Other remarkable parts of this story are Emma’s penchant for making shadow boxes, her newfound love for bisons and the trip she takes with the family she’s staying with. The Wyoming setting definitely adds an atmospheric feel to the story.
Overall: Where We Used to Roam
Where We Used to Roam is a realistic, pitch-perfect book about a family dealing with a teenage son’s opioid addiction. Featuring a relatable protagonist struggling to find her place when nothing in her world is as it used to be, this engaging middle grade book highlights the value of conflict resolution skills, finding friends who see us, and loving our family even when they fall off the right path. I highly recommend this to anyone looking for middle grade books about addiction in the family. Much like Jen Petro-Roy’s Life in the Balance, this one finds the sweet spot between tween-appropriate and true-to-life.
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More Book Reviews
- Many Points of Me by Caroline Gertler
- The Distance to Home by Jenn Bishop
- Things You Can’t Say by Jenn Bishop
Have you read this book or any of Jenn Bishop’s books? Which are your favorite middle grade books tackling addiction in the family?