Study Guide

A Little Less Girl Home

By Tess Oliver

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Chapter 2

Now, it seemed, we had a chance to sleep in a place where we didn't have to shove a chair beneath the doorknob for safety. Now, it seemed, we had a chance to stay in one place longer than four months. Now, it seemed, we had a chance to be normal. (2.19)

Yay for normalcy. For Dani, a home means a chance at an average, run-of-the-mill life, which sounds pretty good after years of living with a drug-addicted mother.

We both stared at the house then willed our feet forward. Suddenly we had a home, a safe place to be, even a small bank account. It was a foreign feeling for the both of us but especially for me. I'd never had a real home before. Mom had even managed to get me yanked from our sordid existence twice. Once, I ended up in a foster home where the people ignored me as if I was merely a piece of furniture. The foster mom, who scowled from the moment she woke up until she shuffled off to bed at night, poured a ton of salt into everything she cooked. (2.18)

Even Dani's life with her mom wasn't a real "home." They moved so much and Dani was in constant danger of being removed from her home. Now they finally have some security. Fingers crossed that it lasts…


The car tossed up a cloud of dust as it climbed the unpaved road to Grammie's house. The house was small and needed paint, but orange and white wildflowers lined the front yard, and a porch surrounded it. It was the first time I'd seen the house […] We never visited Grammie here.

"Damn, I guess this is it." Mom shut off the engine. She stared through the filthy windshield. "It ain't much."

I looked over at her. "You're right. Let's go back to that sleazy motel on the highway. I'm feeling homesick for the fragrance of stale cigarette smoke, carpet mold, and whatever the heck that other smell was." (2.12-14)

Grammie's home might not be much to look at, but Dani realizes right away that it's way better than the places she's been hanging in. Home sweet home, it is.

Chapter 4

My mom burst into the room. "I don't know about you but I hate this place already."

"That's because it belonged to Grammie," I said. "I'm not moving again, so if you don't like it, leave. I'm staying." (4.12-13)

Dani's mom isn't feeling the love in this new house. She didn't really get along with Grammie, so it's no surprise that she doesn't really like the place where Grammie lived. Dani is all-in, though, and she's prepared to stay on her own if she needs to. After all, there's no place like home…

Chapter 8

For most kids, or at least those with normal moms, they walk into a house filled with the smell of chicken frying or potatoes baking. For me, it was nail polish and burnt microwave popcorn. Mom had her toes propped up on Grammie's antique coffee table. She was bent over her legs, one hand holding a nail polish brush, the other holding charred popcorn. Yet I was glad that I had a home to walk into. (8.1)

Okay, so it's not home sweet home quite yet. Dani's mom isn't too into making their house a home, but Dani is determined to make the best of things with this new roof over their heads.

Chapter 26

The lines on her face deepened, and I realized even though she was still young, the life she'd led in the last decade had aged her. "Where is he now?"

"In jail, I think."

"Jail? How? Why?"

"He sliced open Jake's hand with a knife."

Mom slumped back looking as if she might throw up. "Oh my God, Dani. What have I done?"

"Mom, you can hardly take blame for the fact that Cody is a psycho."

"The town will blame us—me. I'm sure they've never had trouble like this before. My ugly skeletons followed us after all." Her voice was shaky.

I placed my hand on hers. "Mom—" A car pulled up in front of the house.

Mom nearly fell over the coffee table as she jumped up to race to the window.

"Relax, Mom. His dad's in jail."

She nodded. "Good to know." (26.135-145)

You can move but you can't totally move on. Dani and her mom are desperate to get away from their old lives, but can't seem to kick things completely. Personally, we're blaming Cody on this one. Feel free to join us.

"You should be on an Olympic team."

"Yeah, well, it's kind of hard to train for the Olympics when you're moving from town to town every few months."

"You're staying here though, right?" Blister asked abruptly.

I nodded. "I think so. I hope so." An uncomfortable silence fell over the group, and I wished I hadn't said anything. These people had probably always had a home right here in Raynesville. They'd all had the life I'd always dreamed about, stable and predictable. (26.50-53)

Dani might have talent in the pool but she's never been able to take advantage of it. If only she'd had a home like these kids in Raynesville. These guys don't know how good they have it.

I climbed into the backseat feeling sick from the events. He'd been following me all this time, the sick creep. And now my sordid life had brought ugliness here to Raynesville. Now everyone here knew what kind of life I'd come from. But mostly it made me sick that Jake knew. (26.82)

Starting fresh is a good thing but Dani can't seem to get it right. She might have left behind her crazy past and settled down in a new place, but those tough times keep coming back to haunt her. Can't she just be normal for two minutes?

Chapter 31
Danielle "Dani" Spencer

"Your mom is pretty cool. Does she like it here?" I asked. "It seems kind of slow-paced for her."

A small grin tilted the corner of her mouth causing her scar to tip up with it. "My mom has suddenly taken to this relaxed style of life. I'm finding it all rather bizarre, but I'm trying not to think about it too much. I don't want to jinx it." We started walking back up the road.

I could see her beautiful profile under the hood of her sweatshirt. I had a terrible urge to grab her hand, but I stuck my own hands in my sweatshirt. "I hope you stay here. It's dull, but it's a nice place to call home, I guess." My own words surprised me but deep down I knew they were true. And listening to Dani talk about her life, I realized just how easy mine had been.

"All my life I've wanted to live the perfect family life, but I've never gotten close to it." (31.57-60)

Dani's mom is really warming up to Raynesville. She may have lived a wild life but this small town stuff is really growing on her. For Dani, Raynesville is pretty much a dream. Sure, she might not have the perfect family, but she does still have a pretty amazing home. Even Jake has to admit that this little town isn't so awful after all.

Chapter 34

We walked back home to inspect the house. My skin crawled with the thought of someone prowling around our things. And knowing I'd been inside with the intruder was enough to make we want to sleep with the lights on like I had when I was ten and the man next door to us had been killed. It had taken me over a year to decide I could turn off the light in my bedroom. And even though Mom had shared the same room with me, she hadn't complained. She let me sleep with the light on. (34.1)

There's nothing worse than the feeling of being violated—especially in your home. Dani saw her house as a secure base and now some creep has broken in (we're looking at you, Mr. Dermott) and she's got the willies, big-time.

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