Here in the Real World

HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. Feb. 2020. 320p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062698957.
Gr 4-6–Eleven-year old Ware prefers daydreaming about knights and the Middle Ages to socializing, a personality quirk that worries his overworked parents. Because he is happy to spend most days “off in his own world,” his parents agree to let him spend the summer with his grandma. But when she breaks her hips in an accident at home, his promise of a peaceful summer is disrupted as his parents sign him up for the dreaded recreation camp. Overwhelming, loud, and full of the forced interactions and “funneration” that he hates, Ware avoids the camp by hiding out in the abandoned lot next door to the building. There he meets Jolene, a smart, secretive girl who spends her days planting a garden in the rubble of the church that once stood in the lot. Together, the two form a tentative connection; Jolene planting her garden, and Ware creating a castle from the ruins of the church. When their shared sanctuary is threatened by outside forces, the titular “real world,” Ware and Jolene’s relationship deepens into a delicate friendship as they band together to save the lot. This sweet, sensitive book shines a light on the introverts and misfits. Despite wishing he could live up to his parents’ desire for a “normal” kid, Ware’s unique personality is validated by a kindred spirit, his uncle, who suggests that he is an artist with his own vision of the world. Ware’s quiet sensibility blends well with Jolene, who’s tough exterior comes from hardship and an abusive relative.
VERDICT Perfect for fans of Pennypacker’s earlier novels Summer of the Gypsy Moths and Pax. Recommended for purchase in most libraries.

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