Where We Used to Roam

In this powerful middle grade novel from the acclaimed author of Things You Can’t Say, a young girl navigates the social growing pains of middle school and struggles to find her place while her older brother fights to overcome opioid addiction—perfect for fans of The Seventh Wish and Waiting for Normal.

When Emma starts sixth grade, things finally begin to change. She may still be in the shadow of her older brother, Austin, the popular high school quarterback, but she’s made artsy new friends who get her way more than her bookish best friend, Becca.

But things are changing for Austin, too. After undergoing surgery for a football injury, Austin has become addicted to opioid painkillers. By the end of the school year, everything blows up with Austin—and Becca. When their parents decide to send Austin to rehab and Emma to stay with family friends in Wyoming for the summer, Emma seizes the chance to get away.

Wyoming turns out to be a perfect fresh start, especially after Emma makes friends with Tyler, a kindred spirit who doesn’t judge her—then again, he doesn’t know what she did to Becca. Still, Emma can’t hide forever…or go back to the way things were with Austin or with Becca. But can she find a way to confront the truth and move forward?

Aladdin / Simon & Schuster

Cover illustration by Ji-Hyuk Kim / 336 pages / Middle Grade (8-12) / ISBN: 9781534457294

Praise for Where We Used to Roam:

A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection

“This sensitive portrayal of drug addiction’s effect on family members also pays significant attention to broader issues such as the growing pains of forming identities and forging new friendships in middle school; should appeal to a wide audience.” – School Library Journal [full review]

“In this transparent examination of how addiction can affect families, Bishop (Things You Can’t Say) effectively showcases Emma’s realistic struggle to forgive her friends, her family, and herself; her turbulent emotions make her a relatable, authentic character.” – Publishers Weekly [full review]

“A sensitively told and heartfelt story of Emma’s experience with her brother’s opioid addiction. Where We Used to Roam will help open up many difficult, but important conversations.” – Jasmine Warga, Newbery Honor-winning author of Other Words for Home

“Emma O’Malley experiences the all too common trials and rewards of progressing to middle school, such as strain with best friend Becca and a sharpened focus on developing her artistic talent. Older brother Austin’s shoulder injury, which requires major surgery and hobbles his football dreams, is little more than background noise early in Em’s social transition, but as her usually supportive brother withdraws into his own misery, Em is left without a sounding board when she makes an ill-considered remark that leads to Becca’s humiliation. Austin is actually in the deepest trouble, addicted to his painkillers and in dire need of rehab, so the O’Malleys send Em off to stay with family friends in Wyoming, leaving her to manage her worries and guilt far from home. Em is gracious enough to make the best of it, though, and she gains valuable perspective on her family’s challenges through a new friendship with Tyler, whose own mother is in prison on a drug-related conviction. Bison sightings and Em’s well-managed encounter with a bison calf that had strayed from the herd also help Em make a positive reconnection with Austin. The two distinct halves of Bishop’s novel are securely harnessed, and the abrupt segue underscores the tailspin into which Em’s life has been thrown. The O’Malleys stay strong, though, and even though the book wisely eschews an unequivocal happy ending, there’s definitely light on their horizon. ” – Recommended, BCCB 

“Bishop combines a coming-of-age story with an issue story, creating a novel that teaches lessons without being preachy and honestly depicts the confusion, fear, and anger that arise when a sibling struggles with substance abuse . . . Though the story ends on a positive note, there is no unrealistically neat happy ending . . . An enjoyable book that is a starting point for young readers to understand the opioid crisis.” – Kirkus [full review]

“A searingly poignant story of adaptation, resilience, and the kind of love that can guide us through our most difficult paths. Jenn Bishop beautifully balances heavy topics, like addiction, with more ordinary trials, like friends growing apart, weaving in threads of artistry and hope that carry the reader through the hardships Emma faces.” – Cindy Baldwin, author of Beginners Welcome

Where We Used to Roam is a sensitive and thought-provoking story about one girl’s efforts to navigate changing friendships, a brother’s addiction, and the ripple effect it has on the whole family. An important platform for difficult discussions that will leave a lasting imprint on your heart.” – Elly Swartz, author of Give and Take

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Click here for the Curriculum Guide for Where We Used to Roam

Watch and listen to Jenn read a sneak peek from Where We Used to Roam:

Click here for the Nerdy Book Club post with fellow author E.B. Vickers about the inspiration behind Where We Used to Roam and Vickers’s YA novel Fadeaway, both of which deal with substance abuse