January 25, 2022

Eight Days

Written by Teresa Toten
Scholastic Canada
312 pp.
Ages 10-14
January 2022

A lot can happen in eight days. Death, love, journeys and change. And, like it or not, it is what it is.

At almost 14, Sami Stanic has lived through a lot. Since she was three, she has lived with her grandfather Carl in the White Towers apartment building at Thorncliffe Park in Toronto. Carl is a recovering alcoholic, having stopped drinking when he brought Sami to live with him, and Sami is determined to keep it that way. She works at ensuring he stays sober by attending AA meetings with him and by keeping herself apprised of all the programs and readings, and she is determined to prove herself useful. In her own way, she does not want to be abandoned again. But, without knowing it, Sami has become part of the community, regardless of Carl's intolerance to the diverse community that is the Towers now. Her best friends are Nilofer and Tarek (also her crush) and there are lots of people watching out for her, though she doesn't realize it. So when she learns that her mother has died, a woman she'd always thought of as gone already, Sami is both perplexed and ashamed.
Within days, Sami, Carl and their neighbour Aggie are heading to Chicago in Carl's '77 Olds, affectionately known as Sophie, to deal with Shannon's funeral arrangements. But the journey becomes an opportunity for truths to finally emerge about all their stories: Sami's first few years, Shannon's issues, and Carl's despair. And their return to Canada may just be a new pilgrimage for all.

Teresa Toten may be better known for her extraordinary young adult novels (e.g., Beware That Girl, Shattered Glass, and The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B) but her voice shines just as brightly in this middle-grade novel. Perhaps it's because Teresa Toten has still focused her story on the foundation of most children's lives: their relationships. For Sami, it's her many relationships that drive her. Her relationships with Carl, with Nilofer, with Tarek, with Aggie, with her mother, and with so many in her community offer some security and comfort, but also some worry and angst, while often leaving her questioning her memories and her feelings.
I'd been whiplashed by every possible human emotion in the past few hours. I liked me better before. Clamped down, in charge. (pg. 253)
Teresa Toten makes sure that Sami's journey does not start and stop with a road trip. It becomes one of self-discovery and tenacity in which Sami sees and hears more from those around her and allows herself to be more. As alone as she may feel, living with a dry alcoholic who could relapse at any time, Sami learns she's part of a big community and one so diverse in its cultures that there is more than enough offering to be the family she needs.

Eight Days may have a road trip story line at its core but the journey is more one of life. But, as with any journey, where you come from is just one part. Where you're heading and where you end up are just as meaningful.


  1. I know a young person who would like this one a lot. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  2. Not sure why I am shown as unknown.

    1. There’s always something with the tech. 🙃

      Thanks, Darlene, for leaving a comment. You’re always so good about reading my reviews.

    2. They are always so good. I get ideas for gifts and for some I want to read myself. Thanks.