- Age Range: 12 - 17 years
- Grade Level: 7 and up
- Lexile Measure: 900L (What's this?)
- Hardcover: 196 pages
- Publisher: Roaring Brook Press; First Edition edition (May 1, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1596430451
- ISBN-13: 978-1596430457
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,031,529 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Stealing Henry Hardcover – April 14, 2005
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From School Library Journal
Grade 8 Up–Fed up with her alcoholic stepfather's violent ways and her mother's resignation, Savannah, 17, "brains him" with a frying pan and flees her New Jersey home, taking her 8-year-old half brother with her. They stop first at the apartment of a former boyfriend in New York, then move on to find a great-aunt in Maine whom the teen barely remembers, reversing their mother's path away from her roots. Intertwined with the story of Savannah and Henry's travels is their mother's story: how boredom in her small town and the arrival of an attractive stranger led to an unexpected pregnancy and years of driving around the country with her daughter until she found someone willing to marry a woman with a child. For Savannah, those years alone with her mother are rosy memories. She desperately misses the woman she remembers and hopes that her flight will somehow rekindle her spirit. MacCullough captures the panicky quality of the escape, telling the story obliquely but with intermittent flashes of minute detail. But because so much is implied rather than directly stated, Savannah's desperation is unconvincing. Readers are left with the uneasy feeling that in spite of her determination not to be like her mother, she may be following the same path.–Kathleen Isaacs, formerly at Edmund Burke School, Washington, DC
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* Gr. 9-12. "Don't look back. It's bad luck. Never look back." Savannah hears her mother's refrain in her head the night she hits her abusive stepfather, Jake, with a sizzling frying pan and leaves town with her eight-year-old half-brother, Henry. Sav is no stranger to the road, having lived a nomadic childhood with her mother, who never looked back as she floated from one state and boyfriend to another in her white Chevrolet. The day the car breaks down on the New Jersey turnpike, they meet Jake, and the roaming stops. The story of Savannah and Henry's journey to New York City and, eventually, to Maine, is interspersed with Sav's memories of childhood. Intermittent chapters titled "Alice 1986" chronicle events from Mom's teen years that dovetail with the current flight and the choices that Savannah makes. Tiny strokes of details paint whole backstories for the characters, revealing the tenuous love between mother and daughter and shining a light on the poverty and heartache that lead to their estrangement. MacCullough's dialogue is flawless; without a didactic note she leaves teens to ponder some heavy issues: interracial relationships, teen pregnancy, runaways, and responsible parenting. The journey is fascinating. Cindy Dobrez
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top Customer Reviews
For the first nine years of her life, Savannah had her young mother Alice all to herself. They were close and carefree as they traveled across the USA, living somewhere for a little while, until the itch to move had to be scratched again. Savannah does not know who her father is, but that's okay with her. Their family of two suits her just fine.
During Savannah's childhood, Alice went through a string of boyfriends. However, as Savannah is about to cross over into double digits, Alice falls for Jack. They get married, have a little boy, and plan roots. Suddenly, the family has doubled in size. The road trips end - and the abuse begins. Jack likes to drink. He does not seem to like Savannah.
By the time Savannah is in high school, her stepfather has lost his job, her mother has lost the spark she once had, and her half-brother Henry has learned to listen in doorways before coming in the room, for fear of walking in on an argument. One night in the kitchen, it becomes too much for Savannah. She hits Jack with a pan (not to kill him but to knock him out), tells Henry to pack some things, takes the car keys and leaves with her little brother in tow.
Stealing Henry is more than what the title implies. It is about family and about survival. The story impressively alternates between present day, following Savannah's attempt at escape, and 1986, when Savannah's mother was a teenager. The modern part of the story takes place over a matter of days, keeping up with the swift pace of Savannah and Henry as they go across the country.
The characters and the stories they tell are memorable. The dialogue is realistic, especially that spoken by Savannah, who doesn't hold back. She is remarkably selfless. Her love for her brother and her mother shines in everything she does. When Savannah realizes that her mother is not who she once was, the revelation alone is heartbreaking, but the writing makes it even moreso.
I highly recommend Stealing Henry, especially to those who love books by Sarah Dessen and Melissa Lion. Those who enjoyed Falling Through Darkness, Carolyn MacCullough's first novel, will not be disappointed by Stealing Henry. In fact, they may enjoy Stealing Henry even more. I know I did.
A fantastic novel! Highly recommended.
Alice used to be someone Savannah admired, someone she could look up to. But that was another life when Alice was still looking for her own future and finding nothing she expected.
Savannah's life wasn't always about listening before entering a room and not making eye contact or talking back. Her childhood homes could fill a road atlas. Savannah and Alice traveled all across the country before the fateful day their car broke down and the party stopped for good.
Savannah and Henry are journeying to a house they've never seen. Eighteen years ago certain events conspired to drive Alice to leave that same house for good; events that would eventually determine the course of both Alice and Savannah's lives in Stealing Henry (2005) by Carolyn MacCullough.
Stealing Henry draws readers in right from the beginning with a shocking opening line and a truly evocative cover (designed by Rodrigo Corral--the mastermind behind the US covers for the Uglies series). Nothing about Savannah's life is easy and it's simple to assume reading about her won't be either. But the opposite is true. MacCullough's lyrical prose pulls readers in, quickly making Savannah and her unreal life completely believable.
Even passing scenes of the local emergency room, Alice's current place of employ, are skillfully written with a high degree of authenticity. Everything about this story is evocative and compelling.
I read Stealing Henry shortly after the van incident and a generally not peaceful time in my own life. Reading about Savannah and her own journey was somehow entirely appropriate for that situation and often comforting. Much like MacCullough's later novels, this story is always optimistic. Even at her lowest, Savannah remains hopeful; the writing itself becoming both peaceful and reassuring.
Possible Pairings: How to (un)Cage a Girl by Francesca Lia Block, The Secret Life of Prince Charming by Deb Caletti, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley, The Bride's Farewell by Meg Rosoff, Little Voice by Sara Bareilles (music album)