I don't know if I can say that I "enjoyed" this book. Not because it isn't good, but because of the seriousness of the situation and the fact that it is the reality of what happened to the author. It broke my heart. I found the writing to be effective, and the story to to be consuming, and I had a hard time putting the book down, but the story is so tragic that I was saddened by the fate of the people in the book.
This book was addictingly readable and so incredibly good that I tore through it in two days and couldn't wait to re-post it for the next person to read. Janice Erlbaum's memoir of her year with "Sam", a teenage girl she meets in a homeless shelter, is compelling to say the least. She wants to save Sam, and in doing so she ultmately finds and saves herself. Extremely well-written. I went and immediately put her first book "Girlbomb" on my wishlist and can't wait to read it.
(review for LibraryThing Early Reviewers)
Have You Found Her, a memoir, follows Janice Erlbaum as she volunteers at the teen shelter where she lived twenty years ago. That's where she meets Sam, a girl living at the shelter â" and though the shelter staff has warned her not to play favorites, she quickly becomes tangled up in Sam's life. She's determined to help the girl in whatever way she can... but there's a lot about Sam that she doesn't know.
I was in the middle of two novels when I received this book, but as soon as I started it the thought of picking up the other books I was reading didn't even cross my mind. It drew me in from the beginning. The attention to detail and frequent use of dialogue gave the story immediacy and made it feel like a novel. It also reminded me a bit of the book One Child by Torey Hayden, which is one of my favorites.
The author never took the easy way out while writing this book; nothing was painted in black and white. The good parts of Ms. Erlbaum's relationship with Sam were tainted by her suspicions that the relationship wasn't a healthy one, while the bad parts of the relationship were tempered by Ms. Erlbaum's deep love for the girl. This made the story complex and realistic.
Reviewed by coollibrarianchick for TeensReadToo.com
I just finished a book, after running back to the beach because it was mistakenly left there, that I am going to pass on to everyone looking for a good book to read. HAVE YOU FOUND HER by Janice Erlbaum was a gut-wrenching, pull-at-your-heart strings, can't-put-it-down memoir. It actually reads like a novel, a suspenseful one at that, full of plot twists and turns. I finished it in two days. The little blurb I read about it in my local library's Bookpage didn't do the book justice.
Janice Erlbaum one day decided to volunteer at a homeless shelter for teens in NYC. Very noble of her, don't you think? Volunteering at this one homeless shelter was more than just an act of graciousness for her. Twenty years ago, she lived at that shelter for a time. She wanted to do something for these kids, show that you can change your situation and become successful. Janice definitely changed her life for the better. Now she is a successful author, living in a nice apartment with her husband (or domestic partner, as she calls him) and three cats.
At first, the volunteering doesn't go very well. Her nervousness shows and the kids are gravitating to her for help. Janice is just not sure if she can do it. She soon realizes she has to have a shtick if she wants their attention and find a younger version of herself to help. So one day, she brings a bag full of beads for a craft-making jewelry session. It does the trick and she is forever known as the Bead Lady.
One of the rules of the place is "Don't choose favorites." That rule goes completely out the window when Janice meets Samantha. Samantha is a brilliant junkie who has been on her own since she was twelve. She is incredibly lovable and also incredibly damaged. Samantha says a lot of things throughout the time Janice comes to know her that should be questioned. At any rate, Janice ends up falling for Sam - not a romantic love like she has for Bill, but in a deeply caring, friendship/parental way. She wants to save Sam from the streets, and this leads Janice and Sam through hospitals and halfway houses and rehabs.
The one thing Janice never suspected was how sick Sam really was.......
The book was like a roller coaster ride for me. When Sam was up, in good health, on the right track, you cheered -- but when she was down, sick, so weak that you though she would die at any second, you couldn't help but get sad and emotional. You start to wonder if you can really save another person's soul.
I just wonder where Sam is now.....
(this reviewed is copied from my goodreads.com profile)
I'll probably end up forgetting some of what I want to say because a lot went through my head while reading this. First I should say that it only took me 4 or 5 days to read this because I've been so busy. Had I had the usual amount of reading time I normally have I'd have finished it in a day or two - no more. It flows. Janice is a fantastic writer which she proved so easily with Girlbomb: A Halfway Homeless Memoir. Nothing different with that.
I wasn't expecting the ending. I'm not much for wishing for happy endings. Some are fine, more are unrealistic. I tend to like my non-fiction realistic whenever possible. ;-)
So, why wasn't I expecting this ending? I still don't know. Maybe I believed Janice had it in her to save Sam. And I think she did. I think with someone who was ready to be saved Janice would be a literal life-saver. Maybe it was as simple as hope.
Another reviewer (same as mentioned above) also claimed that no one could go through all of the things Sam claimed to have gone through. While anyone who has read this story knows Sam's claims are one things - there are indeed people who live life like the one Sam described. There are indeed children who have parents who failed them. There are indeed children who have drug addicted parents who sell them for a bit of whatever get-high they're partial too. I suppose it's a good thing that the reviewer is unaware of this. It probably means they've led a fairly sheltered life. But I'm here to tell you that it does happen - all too frequently. Anyone who puts forth a little research can find out. Anyone who volunteers their time, much like Janice did, in certain places can see for themselves.
(Can anyone tell I don't like all inclusive statements that can so easily be proven false?)
There were a lot of times I was furious with Sam. For the lies, for all she had that she didn't really appreciate. Other times I was furious with Janice. For being taken in. Conned. For not checking things out sooner. After thinking about it all over and over again, I realized that Janice did what I hope I would do in the situation. She trusted Sam for as long as she could. Until she could do so no longer.
Another thing that should be mentioned is Janice's honesty. That's very obvious but with a subject like this it should be applauded IMO. I doubt I'd even admit to the little lie Janice told to her best friend in the 7th grade. But she admitted that and so much more, some of it not the most flattering. A lot of people would have edited those parts out to make themselves look "better". But then, Janice didn't have to try to make herself look better. From where I'm standing she looks pretty damn good.
As different as this is compared to Girlbomb I'd still recommend it to anyone who liked it. Janice's writing is really, really good and there are no hesitations - it just really, honestly, purely flows. It's rather refreshing really.
I sincerely hope she's still writing. Janice Erlbaum is one of only a handful of authors who, if they came out with a new book, I'd go right out to buy it, with no concern for how much it costs or looking at it very closely. (I usually wait to buy books because I get them far cheaper elsewhere and I already own thousands.) It's nice to have an author that I don't have to worry about coming out with something I won't like. I know that with this author it's next to impossible.
I urge any and everyone thinking about reading Have You Found Her to read it regardless of any review or any one person's thoughts. (Even mine, however hard that may be.) :-D I'd always warn potential readers that not everyone tried to avoid spoilers so take caution if or when you read reviews. Reading any spoiler(s) won't "ruin" the book for you (I don't think so anyway) but it just sucks. Unless you're even more pessimistic than I am about things/people like this subject/Sam, the element of surprise nearing the end is a good one I think.(