HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: He Will Not Walk With Me
Author: Alice Hendricks Bach
Publisher: Delacorte, 1985
Language level: 3
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Said to be for ages12 and up, but I’d say 16 and up
Rating: **** 4 stars
(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Bach, Alice Hendricks. He Will Not Walk With Me (Published in 1985 by Delacorte Press, 1 Dag Hammarskjold Place, New York City, NY 10017). Sixteen-year-old Hallie Clement lives in an upscale New York City apartment with her father Paul, a lawyer, her mother Meg, a journalist, and younger brother Jake. Her boyfriend is Sam Cobbit, and her two best friends at both Lincoln High School and her church’s youth fellowship are Martha Cassell and Starr Mann. To impress her youthful, charismatic, attractive new minister, Reverend Jacob Ward Alcott, affectionately known as “Jinks,” a media celebrity who preaches about helping the homeless, and on whom she has a crush, Hallie volunteers at Communion House, a soup kitchen in New York City’s Lower East Side, after seeing the minister on TV promoting the shelter for the homeless. She becomes deeply involved with the House, its “guests,” and the people who work there. Still, it’s Jinks Hallie wants to impress.
Unfortunately, the Reverend Alcott never comes to the kitchen, hardly pays attention when Hallie tells him about it, and does not follow through on a food collection that he promised. In a final desperate attempt to gain his attention, she stays out on the streets one cold winter night. What happens to Hallie? Does she survive the ordeal? And will she learn any important lessons? First, let me say that this is not a book for children. It is definitely a young adult novel. The language could be worse—a few mild crudities and some “polite” profanity. In addition to the main theme, the plot deals with several distinctly teenage problems. A boy is caught smoking a joint. Hallie tells Sam, “Every minute we’re alone, you want to make out.” Instances of drinking alcohol occur. There are references to a guy “copping himself a feel” and another who “wanted…a little hand job.” And while on the street, Hallie is the victim of an attempted rape.
All of this is handled reasonably well. But, again, most parents whom I know would not feel that it is suitable for young children. The street people are well depicted so that readers can see them, hear them, and even smell them. The gist of the story is that the romantic idealization of her minister that leads Hallie to volunteer work with the poor of New York City also leads to some disillusioning encounters with reality. She learns that what really counts is the actual work done in a place like Communion House, not Jinks’ empty words, that virtue is its own reward, and that there is a difference between lip service and that of real service to help relieve such conditions as poverty and hunger. The lesson is one which is always timely, that success is not measured by the approval of the masses or a coveted love object. In our celebrity-and-media-oriented culture, these are important issues for teens to consider.