Paper Things, Reviewed by Shelley Tang, age 10

Book Reviews  /   /  By Sarah Ainsworth
Stone Soup Magazine
September 2018

Do you ever worry about anything when you are in school? About your grade on a test? About who your new lab partner will be? Arianna Hazard worries too, but her worry is where she will sleep at night. When Gage, Ari’s brother decides he can’t live with Janna, their guardian, anymore, Ari goes with him to live in his “new apartment.” But it turns out that Gage doesn’t really have a new apartment, and they start crashing at different friends’ houses. Ari didn’t really want to leave Janna, but felt that she needed to because of a promise she had made to her mother that Ari and Gage would “always stick together.”

Arianna and Gage go from house to house to avoid frigid nights in Maine. Showers are no longer available, and her class now looks at her as a dirty child. Worse than that, her teachers now have low expectations of her and even her best friend joins with others that stare at Arianna’s greasy hair all day. Tired of people making fun of her, Ari doesn’t know what to do. Adding to her problems is a second promise Ari made to her mother that she would get into Carter Junior High School, a very selective school. Both of her parents and even Gage had gotten into Carter so this places a whole lot more pressure on Arianna. As the application deadline draws closer, Arianna worries more and more. At the same time, Ari feels ashamed about being homeless, so she decides to keep it a secret from everyone else.

I did some research and found out that homelessness is a hidden problem in many towns. When children are homeless, they are often embarrassed at the fact and try to keep it hidden as they struggle to concentrate at school. They get bullied and made fun of, like Ari did for her dirty clothes and “greasy hair.” Being homeless can also make it hard to do homework if you don’t have a desk to write on. This situation is all around the world, even in places where you might not expect to see it, and this book made me aware of this. Even in my own town and in my own school there are kids that are homeless. Sometimes, as a child, you don’t know about poverty and homelessness; all you really think about is happiness.

Paper Things is an amazing story full of happiness and sadness balanced like a seesaw. Sometimes you will feel yourself cheering Arianna on, supporting her as you read. Other times, you will feel your stomach ache for her to stay strong and never give in again. Other times, you will feel frustrated with her brother or angry at the people who are being mean to her. The author, Jennifer Jacobson, wrote this story in a tone that makes the reader want to never let go of the book. The main character Arianna feels like a close friend that you’ve never met but know a lot about. Jacobson describes the characters so well, it is as if they are real.

In my opinion, this book will appeal to readers who love realistic fiction. The author wrote the story in such a manner that it was like I was on a leash, captivated by the book and not wanting to look away. The story actually does have a wonderful ending but you will need to find out what it is for yourself. So don’t waste time, and go check out Paper Things now!

Paper Things by Jennifer Richard Jacobson. Candlewick, 2014. Buy the book here and support Children’s Art Foundation-Stone Soup in the process!

Have you read this book? Or do you plan on reading it? If so, comment below!

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