A Soft Place to Land, Janae Marks’ second middle grade novel, is a heartwarming story of family, friendship and one girl’s longing to find her place amid the world’s turmoil.
Until recently, 12-year-old Joy lived in a comfortable house with her loving parents and her little sister, Malia. But when Joy’s father loses his job, her parents must sell their house to avoid foreclosure. Joy and her family move to a small apartment, where she and Malia must share a bedroom. The financial stress also means her parents can no longer afford Joy’s piano lessons, which is a crushing blow because she loves music and aspires to become a film composer when she grows up.
Just when all seems lost, Joy meets a kindred spirit: Nora, a classmate who also lives in Joy’s new apartment building and has worries of her own. Nora introduces Joy to a secret hideout where they can escape their troubles and share secrets. The hideout becomes the titular soft place to land for Joy, Nora and the other kids in their apartment complex.
In the hideout, friendships blossom and splinter. A shared passion inspires Joy and Nora to test their independence by starting a dog-walking business to earn money, which elicits interest and growing trust from their parents, but yields unanticipated results. Troubling hidden messages scrawled on the hideout’s wall leave Joy concerned, puzzled and wanting to do more to help the anonymous writer.
The desire for a safe haven is shared by all of the novel’s characters. Chaos is everywhere, Joy discovers, but what matters is how you confront challenges, share what you’ve learned and invite others in. If you can find the strength and courage to do so, you may find that home has been right in front of you all along.