Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Paper Things, by Jennifer Richard Jacobson

Ever since their mother died, Ari and her older brother Gage have stuck together.  So, when he moves out of the home of their guardian and wants her to come along, she does.  But life on the streets is hard for an eleven year-old girl and as brother and sister struggle to establish a foothold, Ari discovers just how tenuous her life is.  Her grades, friends, and even her self-respect begin to slip away.  Her dream of getting accepted to a special magnet school next year seems lost forever.  What keeps her together is her collection of cutouts (her "paper things") that she has collected -- images cut out of clothing catalogs that illustrate a happier world of smiling models who enjoy the one thing she wants more than anything else:  a home.

Gut wrenching and touching, this is a great novel in search of an audience. Who is the target audience for this book? The age of the protagonist would normally slot this book for middle schoolers, but the subject matter is far more mature for that.  Outside of those of us who are "not acting our age," I fear there isn't much of a readership for this moving story of a brave young girl.  More problematic is Ari, herself.  She has a voice that is wise and mature far beyond her years.  And so it is often quite jarring when she grows foolish and forgetful in a way that is entirely appropriate for a fifth grader but so out of character for her wise narration.

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