Publisher/Date: Puffin, Oct. 2003
Genre(s): Coming of Age, Young Adult
Remember what it was like having your first crush on a girl, that delicious sensation of something sweet and forbidden, but tingling with anticipation of doing it again?
That feeling is captured in Jacqueline Woodson’s tender novel, THE HOUSE YOU PASS ON THE WAY. Evangeline “Staggerlee” Canan, the 14-year-old biracial protagonist of this tale, deals with her true feelings when her cousin, Trout, comes to visit.
Before Trout’s arrival, Staggerlee’s life is filled with longing. Despite being surrounded by a loving family, she’s lonely and doesn’t have many friends. She does grow close to new classmate Hazel, whom she kisses in between the cornflowers, but that soon fades once Hazel discovers Staggerlee’s tragic family past.
Before her parents married, Staggerlee’s grandparents were killed by a car bomb. Both famous entertainers, they were immortalized in her small town of Sweet Gum. Because of it–and her parents being an interracial couple–people look at Staggerlee and her family differently. They assume she’s stuck up and treat her as an outcast.
Everything changes when Trout comes to Sweet Gum. Staggerlee’s never met her 15-year-old cousin. But when she does, she’s taken aback by Trout’s beauty and presence. Trout’s a little pensive at first, but the more the two spend time together, they learn they have a lot more in common. They share a love girls, both having had their first same-sex crushes. Because of this connection, their bond evolves into a deep friendship. Staggerlee has found somebody who truly knows how she feels. She realizes that her feelings for girls are real and valid.
Woodson is a truly gifted writer to craft, The House You Pass on the Way, a beautiful novel about a girl’s search for self. Not only did it showcase a young woman’s budding sexuality, but highlighted the unconditional love of a family. One can truly say this novel takes you back to the past when love was fresh and new and innocent.
Reviewed October 2005