The Agony of Bun O'Keefe

The Agony of Bun O'Keefe

Book - 2017
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It's Newfoundland, 1986. Fourteen-year-old Bun O'Keefe has lived a solitary life in an unsafe, unsanitary house. Her mother is a compulsive hoarder, and Bun has had little contact with the outside world. What she's learned about life comes from the random books and old VHS tapes that she finds in the boxes and bags her mother brings home. Bun and her mother rarely talk, so when Bun's mother tells Bun to leave one day, she does. Hitchhiking out of town, Bun ends up on the streets of St. John's, Newfoundland. Fortunately, the first person she meets is Busker Boy, a street musician who senses her naivety and takes her in. Together they live in a house with an eclectic cast of characters: Chef, a hotel dishwasher with culinary dreams; Cher, a drag queen with a tragic past; Big Eyes, a Catholic school girl desperately trying to reinvent herself; and The Landlord, a man who Bun is told to avoid at all cost. Through her experiences with her new roommates, and their sometimes tragic revelations, Bun learns that the world extends beyond the walls of her mother's house and discovers the joy of being part of a new family-- a family of friends who care.
Publisher: [Toronto] : Penguin Teen Canada, 2017.
ISBN: 9780143198659
Characteristics: 216 pages ; 22 cm.


From Library Staff

Ages 12-18

List - 2018 Teen Top Novel Nominees
MKO2 Apr 12, 2018

Quirky tale of a teenager on the spectrum who is kicked out of her home by her obese mother, who has a severe hoarding problem. Bun meets up with a ragtag bunch of young adults who take her in a finally give her a feeling of family. The story can be quite tragic at times, but the quirky dialogue ... Read More »

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Mar 15, 2020

I loved this book - wonderful characters and gripping story.

Sep 20, 2019

Dealing with issues of neglect and abandonment, Bun O'Keefe takes her mother at her word and leaves home for good. Ending up in the city with a poor ability to function in society, Bun is fortunately taken in by a ragtag group of people doing all they can to get over their own issues of neglect and just survive. This book hits hard in many ways, addressing often-tough to talk about topics such as abuse (all kinds) suicide, and all types of hatred. It is also balanced by the simple innocence of Bun's narration, who has essentially been locked away in her mother's house for 14 years with no social interactions. Be prepared for some tough moments, but I promise, this book is worth it.

Sep 02, 2018

At first I was a little hesitant to read this book, but I began seeing the title everywhere - at the bookstore, the library, and online - and finally gave in. I was drawn to the setting, as my family is from Newfoundland, and decided to give the story a go because the plot seemed so different than that of most young adult literature. And boy, am I glad that I did! This is one of the best books I have read in a while. Although the story was a little slow at first, I was able to understand Bun O'Keefe and became attached to her and the other characters. There was so much diversity among the characters and the challenges they faced, yet they had one thing in common - each other. The story was funny and sad, heartwarming and heartbreaking. I quickly found myself rooting for Bun, the odd fourteen-year-old who was deprived of a normal childhood, wondering what would happen next, hoping it was good. The Agony of Bun O'Keefe is a love story, but not the kind that you would usually expect to find among teen reads. It's a story of friendship, of finding familial love in unexpected places. It is a story that everyone must read.

Jun 20, 2018

This book can’t be underrated anymore. I’m going to tell everyone I know about this book, so more people can read it and understand just how amazing it is. This is one of my most unexpected five star reads in my entire lifetime. I didn’t expect to be so connected and in love with the characters, the family atmosphere… this is a book that will stay with me for a very long time. Bun O’Keefe is so loveable and precious to my heart, and her story brought me to tears. This contemporary is better than the acclaimed “Everything, Everything”, tackling many topics such as prejudice, depression, internal struggles, and Aboriginal issues. The band of characters will forever remain in my heart, and I will never forget this story. I think I have my vote for the Top Teen Novel award, and trust me, you will too. I’ve tried to kept my review short as to not disclose any details, but seriously, this book wins everything. Rating 5/5 @jewelreader of the Teen Review Board of the Hamilton Public Library

As I kept reading this book, I learned to fall in love with the main character, Bun O’Keefe really quickly. She is much different than the average fourteen year old, mainly because she spent her life poking through the things her mother, who has a hoarding problem, brings home. Not going to school since she was a little girl and growing up with little memories of her father makes things hard for Bun. With little interaction with the outside world and taking things a little too literally, when her mother tells her to “go on, get out,” she does. She then meets a group of people and builds a relationship with each one of them, my favourite being Chef. Bun doesn’t ever refer to each of them with their first name, only the first thing that she thinks describes them, such as their occupation. Following Bun and the events which occur leaves me thinking of much Bun has changed since the beginning. I thought this book was slow but things are revealed unexpectedly and it still has me questioning everything that’s going to happen. I like how the characters would do anything to keep Bun safe from danger. 2/5 - @booklover327 of the Teen Review Board of the Hamilton Public Library


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Dec 28, 2017

When her mother tells her to, "Get out!" 14 year-old Newfoundlander Bun O'Keefe squeezes through the piles of trash bags and hoarded junk and leaves the family home, arriving in St. John's in November with no coat. Seeming to be without funds, common sense, street smarts, or social skills, she is scooped up by a busking young guitar player and taken home to a run-down building occupied by a family of outcasts: a drag queen former medical student, a Catholic school girl with guilt and secrets, a First Nations young man with a debt to repay, and a dishwasher with dreams of becoming a chef but currently a student at the culinary school. The attic-dwelling landlord is creepy and Bun is warned to steer clear of him. As the weeks go by, readers learn more about each of the characters. Bun finds friendship and acceptance in this loving family who nurture her in many ways. Readers cheer not only Bun, but her friends too, who are all struggling to find acceptance and a place to live their real lives. At the end there is hope for better things in 1987.

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