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Theories of Relativity
Barbara Haworth-Attard

Publishing Information: Henry Holt: New York, 2005 (originally published in Canada as a paperback in 2003)
ISBN: 0805077901 / 0006392997 (PB)
: 231 p.
Ages: 13 & Up

When his volatile mother throws him out of the house, Dylan is forced to live on the streets and beg for money. Yet through it all, he finds a way to survive.

Book Talk:
hat comes to mind when you see a homeless person on the street? Do you give him money? Avoid eye contact? Cross the street to avoid him completely? What assumptions do you make about him?

How do people end up on the streets? And more importantly, how do they get off the streets?  

"My fingers search the cardboard container, but I've finished the fries. I squirt ketchup on my fingers and lick it off. I'm never full. I think it was one of the reasons I had to leave, or, rather, my mother kicked me out. Jenna's a runaway, but I'm a throwaway, tossed out, like garbage."  -- These are the words of sixteen-year-old Dylan, a teenager forced to live on the streets.   Dylan is a smart kid, determined to stay clean, away from pimps and drug pushers, but as fall turns to winter, times get tough and Dylan gets desperate.  

Theories of Relativity is a gritty, honest novel about life of the streets.
Subject Headings & Major Themes:

Family Relationships
Fear in Teenagers
Mother and Son
Independence in Teenagers
Loneliness in Teenagers
Thought and Thinking

Awards & Reviews:
Canadian Library Association Young Adult Book of the Year Award, 2004 (Shortlisted)
Governor General's Literary Award for English Children's Text, 2003
Ontario Library Association's White Pine Award, 2004 (Shortlisted)
Saskatchewan Young Readers' Choice Snow Willow Award, 2005 (Shortlisted)

Booklist, November 1, 2005, p37
School Library Journal, November 2005, p136
Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2005

Discussion Questions and Ideas:

  1. What is the significance of the title Theories of Relativity ? What do some of Dylan's theories reveal about his outlook on life? Do his theories hold true?
  2. Discuss the decisions Dylan makes throughout the novel. Does Dylan have options? Explain.
  3. Discuss Ainsley and Glen. How do people like them fit into Dylan's theories?
  4. Discuss Dan. Is he a "good guy?"  
  5. Discuss the significance of Dylan's locating his grandfather? What impact does this event have upon his life?
  6. What might be the author's intended message here? How might this book support or change your views of the homeless?  
  7. What might the future hold for Dylan? His two brothers? Jenna? Amber? Vulture?

Related Websites:
Author's Website -

Information and statistics about runaway teens -

Information on keeping kids safe -

Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless -

Almost Lost: The True Story of an Anonymous Teenager's Life on the Streets by Beatrice Sparks, 1996.
by E.R. Frank, 2002
Asphalt Angels
, Ineke Holtwijk, 1999
Becoming Chloe by Catherine Ryan Hyde, 2006

The Beggars' Ride by Theresa Nelson, 1992
Begging for Change by Sharon Flake, 2003
Blue Mirror by Kathe Koja, 2004
Born Blue
by Han Nolan, 2001 (A 2002 RITBA Nominee)
Can't Get There from Here
by Todd Strasser, 2004 (A 2006 RITBA Nominee)
Helicopter Manby Elizabeth Fensham, 2005
Money Hungry by Sharon Flake, 2001
Nothing to Lose by Alex Flinn, 2004 (A 2006 RITBA Nominee)
33 Snowfish by Adam Rapp, 2003

The Raintree Rebellion by Janet McNaughton, 2006
Tyrell by Coe Booth, 2006

Walking on Air by Kelly Easton, 2004
White Horse by Cynthia D. Grant, 1998

Other Books by the Author:
Dark of the Moon, 1995
The Three Wishbells, 1995
Home Child, 1996
TruthSinger, 1996
Buried Treasure, 1998
Loves Lies Bleeding, 1999
Wynd Magic, 1999
Flying Geese, 2001
Irish Chain, 2002
A Trail of Broken Dreams: The Gold Rush Diary of Harriet Palmer, 2004
Forget-Me-Not, 2006
Acne Books and Condoms, 2007

About the Author:
Barbara Haworth-Attard is a native of Elmira, Ontario, presently residing in London, Ontario with her family. June 1995 saw the publication of her first junior novel, Dark of the Moon. Since then she has written twelve novels in the historical fiction, fantasy and contemporary genres for middle-grade and young adult readers. Her thirteenth book, Forget-Me-Not, a sequel to Love Lies Bleeding, has been out since this Fall 2005 from HarperCollins Canada. Also out Henry Holt and Company will be bringing out the US edition of Theories of Relativity. This book has also been sold to Editions Thierry Magnier of France. Barbara also writes short stories, her most recent being in the Red Deer Press 2005 anthology The Horrors. (Source: Author's Website)

| ©2004 - Rhode Island Teen Book Award Committee | Aaron Coutu, Chair