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The Agony of Bun O'Keefe

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  937 ratings  ·  241 reviews
Little Miss Sunshine meets Room in this quirky, heartwarming story of friendship, loyalty and discovery.

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
Paperback, 224 pages
Published April 2nd 2019 by Penguin Teen (first published September 5th 2017)
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Yusra ✨
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Average rating 4.27  · 
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 ·  937 ratings  ·  241 reviews

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Yusra  ✨
reread #1: I’ll admit, I was a little hesitant to read this again, because I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about it almost a year later. i’m happy to announce it was just as good as the first time.

this is the easiest five stars I have ever given to a book. words cannot describe how much I loved it, how it touched me, and how an entire portion of my heart now belongs to Bun O’Keefe and her story. this book is sooo underrated and is gem of a novel.

I initially picked up this book because I was excited
Review also found at:

OMG guys, I read a book that didn't have monsters, vampires, or any supernatural themes. Just regular old fiction! :) I would never have heard of this little gem if it weren't for reading my friend, Schizanthus's review. I just had to request it from Netgalley!

This short book is just so unique and addictive. Bun O'Keefe is a 14 year old (this is NOT a young adult book) with a 300-pound hoarder mother who tells her one day, "Get out!
Sarah Joint
Sep 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Both cute and quirky and dark and dismal. Upsetting at times, uplifting at others. This story is about a unique girl named Bun O'Keefe. When her mother demands she leave their home one day, she goes. She leaves behind a mother with a lot of issues and a large house they could barely move around in thanks to her mother's excessive hoarding.

Fourteen year old Bun hasn't been in school since kindergarten. When her father left, her mother told everyone he took their daughter with him. But there she
Schizanthus Nerd
When her 300 pound hoarder mother tells this smart as a whip yet extraordinarily literal 14 year old daughter to get out, Bun does and leaves the remote place she has always resided (I refuse to call it a home or living). She finds her home in the city with a group of strangers, the names of almost all we never learn.

Bun's father left when she was five, at which point her mother made her invisible. Telling everyone Bun had gone with her father, her mother withdrew her from school after she'd
Kaylin (The Re-Read Queen)
4.5 Stars

I just inhaled this and my emotions are not okay. This book is almost like 'Annie' but in a very rough, raw setting that feels real.


Look who's actually reading ARCs again!

(So what if it came out two months ago, it counts)
I received this book for free through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers.

This book was utterly amazing! It simultaneously broke my heart and gave me warm fuzzy feelings that filled my heart with joy.

The characters were hands down the best part. Bun was a precious cinnamon roll (no pun intended). Busker Boy was the sweetest. The way he took care of Bun was so heartwarming. I really liked how his Innu culture was incorporated in the story. Chef, Big Eyes, and Chris/Cher complete their family of
4 strong stars

Damn, this was too short of a read. From page one I was engrossed with Bun's quirky character & was sad when I had to put it down. Her strong voice & sense of self made for a welcome surprise that complimented Smith's powerful writing. At the beginning of the story we see that Bun was living with her emotionally abusive hoarder mother who demanded that she leave. So she did. At 14, Bun has not gone to school since kindergarten, so she doesn't have the socialization skills
Claudia ✨
The Agony of Bun O'Keefe was a whirlwind of emotion - joy, nostalgia, wonder and heartache. I felt it all.

This book is about the young Bun O'Keefe, a girl who has grown up in mountains of trash with her abusive mother. And when Bun's mother tells her to leave, she does. Not knowing where she's heading, Bun stumbles upon a boy that takes her home and slowly but surely introduces her to his friends and life, while also teaching her what a family truly is.

Heather Smith writing style is so wonderful
Jul 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult
A | 95%

You should read this if you're into:
Unique YA gems, 1980s Canada, quick reads, lovable and flawed characters, books that make you laugh and cry in equal measure, looking for the silver lining
This review is also on my blog illbefinealonereads

The Agony of Bun O’Keefe is one of my favorite reads from this summer, it left me wishing for more. The story touches on serious subjects, but the writing itself is really airy which makes it impossible to put it down. Mrs. Smith does an amazing job of bringing the story to the reader, I found it easy to relate to the events, the emotion just jumps off the page. I found the characters well developed, their relationships were fun to witness. I can
Lara Maynard
I was about the same age as protagonist Bun O'Keefe and also living in Newfoundland in 1986, so I sort of feel like Bun and me go way back. This novel might be aimed at the 9 to 12 year-old set, but this grownup got a kick out of all the 80s references. Duran Duran, Elton John, Casey Kasem's American Top 40, The Cosby Show, Mr. Rogers, The Facts of Life and other musicians and TV shows popular in the 80s are peppered throughout the book. I did catch a few maybe anachronisms, but nothing glaring ...more
When Bun's mother -- a hoarder -- tells her to get out, she does. Bun, who hadn't been to school since kindergarten and had an absent father, could no longer live with her mother and walked. And walked. And walked.

By luck, she met a 20-something busker who took her in, along with a crew of ragtag roommates. This experience helps Bun come into her own, but it's through another traumatic experience (view spoiler) that the relationships Bun
I fully recognize that I am in the minority here, but I did not like “The Agony of Bun O’Keefe” at all. The main character bothered me, even though she was supposed to be one I felt sympathetic toward. There were good issues brought up, but there were way too many and it made the whole thing seem crowded and rushed. The only things I liked about it was the character of “Busker Boy” and the diversity.

This unbiased review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.
Cass -  Words on Paper

So much love! I really did not expect to love this book as much as I did, but it really was amazing. The exploration of childhood trauma was eerily accurate, I adored all of the characters and wish I could have spent more time with them, the writing was punchy and clever, and it was well paced. I'll write up my full review when I get home from work.
Jul 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2018
“I could feel myself changing as I walked to the door. With every step I grew a new layer of skin, each one thick and hard and tough.”

This is simply one of the best contemporaries I’ve ever read. It follows the story of a fourteen-year-old Bun O’Keefe who has a mother excessively obsessed with hoarding piles of junk into her house. So when she asks Bun to leave one day, she does. I was so glad to see that the first person Bun meets Busker Boy, a street musician who’s very kind and caring. He
Mel (Epic Reading)
This book is gut wrenching. I'm hesitant to tell anyone to read it because it's about such awful things. Certainly there are moments of love in it; that come from the awful things but that only makes the emotion of it harder to take.

Heather Smith has done what few writers can do to me. She's written a story that is about tragic circumstances and instead of making me annoyed, that she was tugging on heart strings, I was completely enthralled and absolutely crushed by the sadness of it all. The
General rating:
Diversity rating: (POC, LGBT+: gay, drag queen (does that count??), minority: native American, disability/disorder: OCD)

The Agony of Bun O’Keefe by Heather Smith is, I believe, a middle grade contemporary. It tells the story of fourteen-year-old Bun, who is one of the most interesting characters I’ve ever read about. The book is not only really good, it’s also very diverse.
Although this book is marketed as middle grade (or isn’t it?), the topics that this book covers are way
Jun 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya
“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.”--John Green. He just might have been talking about this book. My new colleague Jenny Zbrizher made me read this original, brilliant, funny, poignant book about a girl who leaves her abusive hoarder mother and finds a beautifully mismatched family of her own. And I'm so glad she did. Now ...more
There's a lot to unpack in this book! Bun O'Keefe is a quirky but lovable character whose family fell apart. Luckily for her, it wasn't long before she found a new family that came to truly love her for who she was. For such a young person, she dealt with a lot. Some of her stories, and the stories of those around her, were truly awful to read about, let alone experience. Yet she came out on top and was able to find her silver lining, of sorts, despite all the awfulness.
Jul 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh. My. God. There are no words good enough. I fell in love with Bun the moment she said "ducks are stupid". I just... I loved this. It deals with so many great issues, and Bun is one of the most interesting narrators I've ever read.
Kayla (Kayla's Book Nook)
*4.25 Stars*

Upon first finding The Agony of Bun O' Keefe on Netgalley, I knew I was in for a quirky, fun read. I love reading about the 1980's and finding out how it was like to live back then, and plus, I love celebrating my country by reading Canadian books. Put the two together, and here is the awesome book you get!

This book totally met those expectations of a vibrant, quirky read. I LOVED the protagonist, and even though this book had a lacklustre plot, I still felt gripped to it.

The Agony

This is one of those books it is best to just start reading, and not know a lot about, so I won't spoil too much. The basic premise is that Bun is very literal, so when her horder of a mother tells her to leave, she does, and doesn't stop until she finds herself in the nearest town, in St. Johns Newfoundland, and meets a busker, and that is how the whole thing started.

Oh, and there is a drag queen, an Inuit, an evil landlord, an amazing chef, and a young woman who didn't want to be a nun.

Jul 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sarah by: Yusra ✨
i should have read this sooner. i don't know how else to describe it but this book deadass made a home in the crevices of my soul and i'm oddly okay with it. bun o'keefe is the epitome of the "i'm baby" meme because that is what she is - a baby. the characters in the book were so damn lovable and multidimensional! IT WAS SO REFRESHING SEEING such an array of people, a group of mismatched puzzle pieces that formed something so much more. the story had enough comedic tidbits to keep the rawness ...more
Jun 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult
This is one of my fav. YA novels Of All Time. Bun O'Keefe is a memorable, endearing, and charmingly eccentric sweet character. Heather Smith is a wonderful writer.
Laurie • The Baking Bookworm
Dec 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: ehbooklover, Booksandchinooks
Shelves: young-adult, canadian
Set in 1980's St John's Newfoundland, this story follows the life of Bun, an endearing and quirky character who quickly wheedled her way into my heart. After living with a mother who ignored and berated her her entire life, 14-year-old Bun leaves home and is found by a young street busker who brings her to his home and the gaggle of people he lives with.

These misfits are a bunch of lost souls themselves, each with their own issues that readers will learn about. But together they become her
Lisa (Remarkablylisa)

I received a copy from Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for a honest review.

I was recommended this read by the publisher after hearing how this book really left an impressive and powerful punch. I must say, this book definitely gives you a punch. You really feel it but it's definitely not the book you should read if you're not in the mood to be super bummy afterwards.

I'll explain.

The Agony of Bun O'Keefe has a full set of quirky characters that don't really have names.
I was not expecting to finish this book so quickly! For a book about such heavy topics, it sure flies by quickly. Essentially the story begins with a 14 year old girl, Bun, who left home after her hoarder mother told her to leave. She was taken in by Busker Boy, who took her to the sort of run down share house he lived in. Bun begins to understand what it means to be loved through this community of people struggling to love themselves( who she in turn does the same for them).
This short book has
Cassie Gutman (happybooklovers)
Heartbreaking and lovely and weird and hopeful.
Nov 22, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2017
Busker Boy may be my new literary crush.
Aug 18, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pub-2017
I think I'm entering a reading slump. Objectively, I don't think this book is bad at all. But, I just really did not enjoyed it. Maybe I was in the wrong mood but it's more that as I was reading it I felt almost uncomfortable. I don't think it was what I was expecting (to be fair I didn't reread the synopsis before I started). I liked all the characters but not the plot itself. So it's not that this is a bad book, which is what my rating seems to suggest, just that I wasn't in the right mood for ...more
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Originally from Newfoundland, Heather Smith now lives in Waterloo, Ontario, with her husband and three children. Her Newfoundland roots inspire much of her writing.
“He took the tin out of my hand and said, 'We're all damaged, in a way. But it's nothing that can't be fixed. You just have to kick out the dents from the inside.” 0 likes
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