Body of Water by Sarah Dooley (2011) takes on poverty and homelessness from a young adult perspective. We meet twelve year old Ember Goforth-Shook on the June night when her family’s West Virginia trailer home is set ablaze by a neighbor. The family makes it out shaken yet safe, but tragically their home, business, and belongings are destroyed in the fire, and their beloved pet dog is nowhere to be found.
The reason for the arson attack? Ember and her family are Wiccan, practitioners of a nature religion which is often misunderstood. The arsonist? Ember is devastated to realize the fire must’ve been caused by her best friend, Anson. Now homeless and jobless, with nothing but the (donated and mismatched) clothes on their backs and some nylon tents, the family takes residence on a campground at the lakeside Goose Landing campsite.
Living off of slices of fried bologna and wild berries, Ember’s parents and her colorful little sister, Ivy, try to make the best of their stay at Goose Landing. But Ember is tormented by her losses and her best friend’s betrayal. Fearing more outside persecution, and now struggling with serious trust issues, Ember spins lies about her identity to everyone she meets, and hopes that no one will try to befriend her.
This YA also novel contains information about Wicca. Ember gives a number of how-to’s with regards to her religious practices, and instructions for performing simple spells and rituals. The author is neither trying to glamorize nor vilify Wicca, but simply provide a real-world depiction of it – as well as the stigma against it. While the end left some questions unanswered, the turns of events in Ember’s life are heartbreaking, and the title is never quite explained, Body of Water makes you think, expands your mind, and causes the reader to question what one truly needs to survive.