The Ant Colony by Jenny Valentine
HarperCollins, 2009. ISBN 9780007283590
Highly recommended. The house is like an ant colony, everyone living in their own compartment, together but separate, until one incident brings them altogether and they find friendship and hope for the future. When Sam runs away from home and comes to London, he wants to be alone, leaving what has happened behind him. He wants to disappear - be in a place where no one knows him or cares about him. The house is full of other alone people, some because of addiction, some who can no longer face the world, and unwittingly, Sam becomes part of their worlds, and begins to care what happens to them.
The little girl, Bo, leans on him for strength and companionship when her mother leaves her for the day. She plays with him, as she has no one else; she talks to him and makes him interact. He sometimes takes her to the park, along with the little dog of the old woman downstairs. But when he speaks crossly to Bo one day, after her incessant questions, she runs off, like he did, and everyone in the house feels responsible and looks for her, the group brought together by their fear of what may have happened.
Told in alternate chapters, one written by Bo, and the other by Sam, Valentine gradually reveals their lives as they learn to navigate around each other. Bo has the nous of someone much older than 10, learned from being left by herself so often, and having to deal with things few 10 year olds would know about, while Sam has made an awful mistake in his life, and must learn again to trust and be trusted.
I simply love this story, everything about it rings true. The accident which makes Sam run away is one we often read of in the paper, and many students will know of someone who is in a similar situation.