Where You Belong

National Book Award Finalist

New York Public Library Best Books for the Teen Age


A Friendship Forbidden

It’s October 11, 1963, in the Bronx, New York. Thirteen-year-old Fiona, her mother, and three siblings have just been evicted from their apartment. Now the family must move in with Aunt Maggie and her six kids. Better to go to Daddy’s place, Fiona’s brother tells her. Better to risk getting beaten than to go someplace you don’t belong.

The beating does come, and Fiona runs away in terror. By the time she realizes how far she’s gone, she is in an all-black neighborhood—a place her Irish-American parents talk about with scorn. She’s alone, hungry, with no choices left.

Coming here, though, reunites Fiona with Yolanda Baker, an old classmate. They were never able to be real friends at school—a friendship between a black girl and a white girl was rare in the Bronx. But today is going to be different. Two girls who don’t feel they belong anywhere will find a special place to belong—with each other. Can their friendship survive? The streets of the Bronx offer a path for a powerful journey of self-discovery.


Praise for Where You Belong

Originally published in 1997 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Where You Belong was chosen by the National Book Foundation as a finalist for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. The New York Public Library also named the book to its list of Best Books for the Teen Age.

“McGuigan limns the territory between divergent inner and outer landscapes and how individuals learn a tremulous courage to trust themselves and their experiences, despite the physical and psychological violence of the adult world. With sensitivity, empathy, and insight, McGuigan shows us that the young have the character and emotional acumen to recreate themselves and, in doing so, recreate history.”

—National Book Award judges


“In this deeply moving novel, McGuigan demonstrates a wonderful talent for creating emotionally complex characters, believable situations, and closely observed, realistic settings. That some of the plot situations remain unresolved reinforces the feeling of real life, which is one of the book’s singular strengths. As for Fiona, she is an unforgettable character with a first-person voice that is marvelous in its understated artfulness and compelling in its emotional authenticity.”

—Michael Cart, Booklist starred review


“The urban setting is nearly a character in itself. . . . McGuigan’s characters are fully realized and emotionally complex, and they do not lend themselves easily to stereotyping or standard bearing. Any social commentary is given from the perspective of a young adolescent who has already received too many hard knocks from an unkind world, and who is seriously questioning where her loyalties lie.”

—The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books


“An insightful glimpse into the ravages wrought in an alcoholic family and the social pressures of the time. The characters are so well drawn and the story so engaging, it’s obvious why this was a National Book Award finalist. Where You Belong will stay with you long after you close the cover.”

—Telegraph Herald


Read an Excerpt


About the Authormary-ann-photo

Mary Ann McGuigan is the author of four novels for young adults. Her writing has garnered recognition from the Junior Library Guild and the National Book Foundation, among others, and she served on the panel of judges for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Her short fiction and essays, mainly for adults, appear in newspapers and literary journals.