Author(s): Sara Pennypacker
From the author of the highly acclaimed, New York Times bestselling novel Pax comes a gorgeous and moving middle grade novel that is an ode to introverts, dreamers, and misfits everywhere.
Ware can't wait to spend summer "off in his own world"--dreaming of knights in the Middle Ages and generally being left alone. But then 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 lot. But what does a hero look like in real life? And what can two misfit kids do?
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"Ware wants nothing more than to spend the summer off in his own world but his baffled parents would prefer he engage in “Meaningful Social Interaction” and so, despite his protests, they stick him in holiday care. He soon finds a sanctuary in the abandoned lot next door, where a half-demolished church and a prickly girl named Jolene capture his imagination. As Ware works to build a medieval castle out of the ruins, Jolene plants a sustainable papaya garden. When the lot is threatened by a developer, the two join forces with a young bird activist to convince the city to preserve the lot.
The friction between the titular real world and what Jolene refers to as Ware’s 'Magical Fairness Land'—his naive belief that justice will prevail, which is at odds with Jolene’s lived experience of abandonment and uncertainty—provides an interesting exploration of fairness, as well as of optimism and pragmatism. It was stirring to see the rag-tag group band together against adversity, and to follow the kids as they independently found a purpose to drive them and consequently grew more self-assured.
Here in the Real World is an eloquent read for kids aged 10+ which will particularly resonate with quiet, creative minds."
— Reviewed by our bookseller Kate