STARRED REVIEW
February 04, 2020

Here in the Real World

By Sara Pennypacker
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Ware’s parents have decided this is the summer they’re going to work overtime and save up enough money to buy a house. But just when 11-year-old Ware settles into a routine with his grandmother who’s caring for him, she suffers a fall—and Plan B is the dreaded Rec Camp, complete with fitness drills, peppy chants and stifling “art” projects. Creative, introverted Ware doesn’t need any more reminders that he’s not a “normal kid,” so when he spots a chance to escape, he jumps a fence and lands in a vacant lot, the remnants of a demolished church.

There Ware encounters Jolene, a tough-as-nails girl with an ambition to grow her own forest of papaya plants. When they look at the ruins of the lot, Jolene sees a garden and Ware sees a castle, but the adults around them only see a strip mall. Jolene, who’s seen enough of life to become jaded, is convinced their project is doomed. But Ware, ever optimistic, hatches a plan to try and save this special place.

Sara Pennypacker’s latest novel is a tender celebration of the quirks that make each person different. In an era when many young people are finding their voices as activists, Here in the Real World is also a hopeful account of collective social action. As Ware says, “I don’t want things to be magically what they’re not. I want them to be what they could be. And somebody has to want that, or nothing bad will ever get better.” True to the book’s title, Pennypacker doesn’t impose a fairy-tale ending on Ware’s story—but she does lovingly honor the beauty found in the people and places that too often go overlooked.

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Here in the Real World

Here in the Real World

By Sara Pennypacker
Balzer + Bray
ISBN 9780062698957

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