Eleven-year-old Clay Garrity is on his own. His father lost his job and left the family. Now Clay's mother is gone from their welfare hotel. Clay is homeless and out on the streets of New York. In the park he meets two homeless men. Buddy and Calvin become Clay's new family during those harsh winter weeks. But the streets are filled with danger and despair. If Clay leaves the streets he may never find his parents again. But if he stays on the streets he may not survive at all.
Garrett, age 11, lived the good life for a time. He had parents who were in love and who loved him, a father with a good job in NYC and a mother there whenever he needed her. Then one day his dad unexpectedly gets laid off from that seemingly solid job and all quickly goes to pot. While Garrett's father falls into a bit of a depression, his mother quickly takes some computer courses before getting a job to save the family finances. Unfortunately, Garrett's mother quickly advancing in her job only worsens his father's depression. Unable to handle the hit to his pride, Garrett's father just disappears one night. While trying to figure out what happened to her husband, Garrett's mother also resolves to be strong for her son as well as her unborn child -- which works... for a bit.
Garrett wakes up one day to find that now his mother has vanished. No clues to her whereabouts, only a little bit of money left under a box of stale donuts. After a few days without word from her, Garrett realizes he's alone in this grimy, run-down, junkie-riddled subsidized housing hotel. When the neighbor across the hall discovers Garrett has been left alone, Garrett makes a run for it in hopes to avoid being snatched up by Child Protective Services. Once outside, he has no idea where to go but quickly gets help from a couple of homeless men who offer to share their humble makeshift shelter. Garrett ends up staying with the men for a few months, relying on them for his survival throughout winter, as well as getting a first hand experience in homelessness. During this time he is also searching for any clues on his mother's whereabouts.
Don't wander around the streets. There are nightmares walking around looking somewhat human. But they aren't.
~Calvin, one of the homeless men who offer Garrett their protection on the streets
The pace of the story moved well and I liked that the novel brought some realities of homelessness to young readers, but as far as action goes, I was hoping for a little more. For such a young boy out on the streets for most of the novel, much of the plot was made up just of his having conversations. There was one tense moment involving a riot, but that was about it. I think this is worthy of a read for the questions and discussions it's bound to bring about, but plot-wise it was just so-so for me.