I'm from Nowhere

Image of I'm from Nowhere
Release Date: 
January 25, 2016
Soho Teen
Reviewed by: 

This story is not as bleak as the title suggests. Rather, it’s quietly upbeat, the tale of an outsider wanting to fit in, but instead of buckling under social pressure she finds her own way and keeps her heart and soul intact.

High school sophomore Wren Verlaine grew up in California with her unmarried mother, Hannah, who steadfastly refuses to disclose the identity of Wren’s father. In spite of this, the two are close throughout their casual and insecure lifestyle driven by Hannah’s ambitions as a reporter.

When Hannah gets the chance of a lifetime to travel to Greenland for six months covering environmental changes, she ships Wren off to her alma mater on the East Coast: “an ultra-fancy, super-intense boarding school in Connecticut. It’s been around for hundreds of years, and the list of famous people who’ve gone there is a mile long.”

Nothing could be more different than the life Wren has known; and she can hardly believe her free-spirit mother ever went to such a place. But Hannah is able to get Wren installed there at short notice while she travels—opening up even more questions for Wren about her enigmatic parent and unknown family.

Wren ends up rooming with the consummate wealthy ice princess and her friends, getting off to a rough start from the moment she drags her guitar in the door. Fortunately, some of the girls and guys at the school are friendly, and she soon connects with other students interested in music and the arts, and who have their own styles.

Even though these students might be considered misfits, the school demonstrates why it’s a high-class outfit. It offers programs and supportive teachers who help the misfits find their places in life.

Nevertheless, Wren says, “Since I’ve been here I’ve started to feel like I’m looking at everything in my life backward, as though I’ve seen it reflected in a mirror in one direction, and now I’m looking at it from the other side.”

Maybe that’s where the I’m from nowhere idea comes from. Wren has no dad—and almost no mother, after a mishap in Greenland—no real home, and no clan she belongs to. So she sees her new environment through the lens of alienation. Still, she has the courage to plunge in and swim, making her a heroine readers are willing to follow and root for.

Narrating in her own voice, Wren shows she is mature for her age, with adolescent feelings but an adult intellect. Her story is engaging right from the first page. And even though the outcome is easily predictable, Wren’s route to it is original and surprising.

In all, this is a cleanly and confidently written coming-of-age story. The author handles teenage angst with a light, matter-of-fact touch without getting vapid or sappy. She takes us into an interesting world of class differences and shows what humanity we all share. The combination deftly balances thoughtfulness and entertainment, issues and adventure—tough to write, and easy to read for both young adults and grown-ups.