Theories of Relativity
Darleen R. Golke is a high-school teacher-librarian in Winnipeg,
In an author’s note, Haworth-Attard observes that in “North
America’s wealthiest cities … many children run away from, or are
thrown out of, desperate home situations to live on the streets, where
they soon find themselves in dire straits.”
Dylan, turfed out of his dysfunctional house on his 16th birthday by a
mother anxious to impress the latest “uncle,” joins the ranks of
street youth, “a throwaway,” he insists. “Tossed out. Like
garbage” with only a backpack filled with a few hastily gathered
belongings and a sleeping bag to face November’s chill.
“When you first land in the street, you’re so … scared you latch
onto whatever security you can find,” explains Dylan. He latches onto
Amber who teaches him survival skills: “how to beg for money, how to
avoid cops, punks,” along with “rules of the street.” He rejects
further help, determined to avoid Amber’s street boss/pimp, the
“Vulture,” who preys on street kids, trapping them with drugs and
forcing them into prostitution and crime.
The library, Dylan’s sanctuary, yields a biography of Albert Einstein
that inspires Dylan’s own “theories of relativity.” Other
outcasts, predators, and thugs, as well as volunteers and concerned
citizens, make up Dylan’s danger-riddled subculture. Each time Dylan
catches a glimpse of hope, “life just dumps on [him] again”; he must
take “some small steps to make [his] life better” and develop a
workable “help-yourself” theory.
Haworth-Attard highlights the despair and harshness of life on the
streets in stark and unrelentingly graphic detail. Although at times her
adult voice threatens to undermine the power of Dylan’s first-person
account, her skilfully presented cast of colourful secondary characters
and realistic dialogue laced with street slang combine to make Theories
of Relativity a compelling portrait of the dilemma of homeless youth
today. Highly recommended.