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Review: Here In The Real World by Sara Pennypacker

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Review: Here in the Real World by Sara Pennyacker

Ware can’t wait to spend summer “off in his own world”—dreaming of knights in the Middle Ages, while staying with his grandmother, ‘Big Deal’ and generally being left alone. But when ‘Big Deal’ has an accident and has to stay in hospital for a long time, Wares’ his parents sign him up for dreaded Rec camp, where he must endure Meaningful Social Interaction and whatever activities so-called “normal” kids do. On his first day Ware meets Jolene, a tough, secretive girl planting a garden in the rubble of an abandoned church next to the camp. Soon he starts skipping Rec, creating a castle-like space of his own in the church lot. Jolene scoffs, calling him a dreamer—he doesn’t live in the “real world” like she does. As different as Ware and Jolene are, though, they have one thing in common: for them, the lot is a refuge. But when their sanctuary is threatened, Ware looks to the knights’ Code of Chivalry: Thou shalt do battle against unfairness wherever faced with it. Thou shalt be always the champion of the Right and Good—and vows to save the abandoned lot, Jolenes’ garden and the wildlife that visits it. But what does a hero look like in real life? And what can two misfit kids do

Here In The Real World is a song dedicated to those who live life with a different point of view; to the introverts, the individuals, the creators and artists. Ware is a bit of a mystery and a frustration to all those around him; misunderstood and frequently discounted as someone who just doesn’t fit in; filled with a dreamy, artistic nature. Jolene is quite different; skeptical, tough and secretive. While the two clash, the find that they develop an unlikely bond and support system, accepting each other into their lives in spite of themselves. There is also a nice bit of inter-generational understanding/misunderstanding that weaves a tenuous thread throughout the book, looking at how we view the members of our families; the assumptions we make and how we relate to each other through our own expectations.

The story speaks of building something beautiful among ruins, of striving for something more. A sumptuous world of dreams and hope comes into being, and even when it doesn’t last, it shows a flexibility; an ability to continue forward and find another way. The description of Wares’ perspective and how it creates a tangible ‘thing’ and the determination to protect it takes the reader into the story convincingly, alongside characters that are realistic and recognisable. We feel every action and emotion; the physical work of building a dream and the anger and fear at its’ imminent destruction. We are given a clear vision of the garden and the building of the castle. Through vivid and detailed, but never tedious descriptions, this plot of land, set amidst the busy, feckless world that surrounds it comes to life with ingenious clarity. An adventure to make the ordinary world extraordinary and to be who you really are, Here In The Real World is quietly glorious and graceful. A story of friendship and acceptance; of dreaming big dreams and taking unusual action when all around are intent on doing otherwise, this just may be the book we all need. (for ages 11 and up).

You can buy your copy of Here in the Real World from the LitVix Bookshop by clicking here.