Can't Get There From Here Essay - Critical Essays

Todd Strasser

Literary Criticism and Significance

The author has clearly done extensive research in striving for authenticity in this gritty and heart-wrenching book. The descriptions of the conditions under which the characters live are presented in vivid and unsparing detail, and the obstacles to their survival are related with unrelenting persistence. The grim picture presented is for the most part unsanitized, providing a realistic sense of the danger and hopelessness of life on the streets. Interestingly, the one area in which the story has been modified from the true experience is in the language used by the characters. There is no profanity in the narrative, which may or may not take away from its total effect, but which unquestioningly opens this valuable work to a wider readership.

Reviews of Can't Get There From Here are overwhelmingly positive, and the book has received perhaps its highest affirmation by being chosen by its target audience for placement on the list of "Young Adult Choices of 2006." The book is praised especially for its unflinching but sensitive handling of a very real problem in society, the downward spiral that is life to homeless teens about whom no one loves and literally no one cares. Although a lack of delineation for many of the characters is noted as a criticism in one review, it can validly be argued that this might be a purposeful result of the author's choice of literary technique. The story is told through the eyes of one of the street kids herself, Maybe. Maybe lives with the others, but does not actually know them well. When the struggle for daily survival consumes all of one's focus, there is little energy left to develop true intimacy.

In addition to being praised for its sensitive, realistic, and thought-provoking handling of an important social issue, Can't Get There From Here has been recognized for its effective inclusion of an element being addressed especially in the present day, non-traditional gender expression. Jewel's ambiguous sexuality is not sensationalized or exploited, but instead is presented as a natural element in the development of his character.