Where I Belong by Gwendolyn Heasley
Publication Date: February 8, 2011
A book that will resonate with people who have been affected by the recession and those who have found themselves in new situations, Where I Belong is a book about what happens when life as you know it ends and you have to pick up the pieces.
Where I Belong starts with a letter from its main character. She tells the reader that she was a “teenage ice princess,” that takes guts. A person has to pretty brave to just come out and say, hey I wasn’t that nice of a person but give me a chance because this is the story of how I changed. And that’s basically what Corinne does; she chronicles her life from her glamorous and privileged life in Manhattan to her after recession life in Broken Spoke, Texas.
Corinne pretty much gives the reader an excuse to dislike her - she really wasn’t that nice in her before recession (B.R.) life: she ignored her brother, treated her parents rudely, she didn’t think beyond herself or her immediate circle of friends and she was all about spinning information so that she never came out on the bad side of gossip. Despite all of that, I found myself actually liking Corinne. Sure, she wouldn’t be someone my teen self would have been friends with but, I would have admired how she took charge of her life and didn’t let other get her down. Also, Corinne did have some good qualities - she was loyal to her best friend, Waverly, and her horse, Sweetbread, and she did work hard, granted it was towards having the perfect wardrobe, but underneath it all a work ethic was there.
You really feel the panic Corinne goes through when she realizes that her life is going to change and that a lot of what is important to her will be gone. Texas, more accurately Broken Spoke, is a shock to Corinne. A very small town with one main street, a Sonic and one Chinese restaurant; it is the polar opposite of Manhattan. Corrine arrived in Texas with the attitude that she did not want to be there and a plan to get back to her old life as quickly as possible. As understandable as feeling that way is, I was really happy when her feelings about Broken Spoke started to change.
I really liked seeing Texas through Corinne’s eyes. Never having been to Texas, it was easy to picture what Broken Spoke looked like. Almost everyone in Broken Spoke was welcoming and I enjoyed seeing Corinne’s friendship with Kitsy evolve from Corinne tolerating her to them becoming close friends. In addition to finding great friends, Corinne gets to know her grandparents. Corinne moved to Texas not really knowing them, in fact she had only met them a handful of times. I love teen-grandparent relationships when they are portrayed well and Gwendolyn Heasley did a great job of showing Corinne getting to know and loving her grandparents. There are some fantastic scenes of Corinne and her grandfather as he attempts to teach her to drive. I have to admit that they were among my favorite scenes in the book.
Where I Belong is a fun contemporary novel about finding your way through a new and scary situation. It’s a great “fish out of water” tale that will resonate with a wide range of readers.
***Full Disclosure: Received copy from publicist/publisher for review***